Sur­rey Mayor Linda Hep­ner, year one done

Asian Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Ray Hud­son

It’s been just over a year since Linda Hep­ner took the cor­ner of­fice at City Hall, a year that’s been chal­leng­ing as she and her coun­cil set­tled in and be­gan mov­ing her agenda for­ward. There was the frus­tra­tion with the con­tin­ued shoot­ings around Sur­rey and the de­feat of the TransLink ref­er­en­dum, how­ever Hep­ner says there is sig­nif­i­cant progress on both fronts as well as wins in other ar­eas.

Mayor Hep­ner: A sig­nif­i­cant step was get­ting more than three-quar­ters of the new po­lice of­fi­cers de­ployed in Sur­rey al­ready. And as a Christ­mas present we ar­rested the six peo­ple we think are re­spon­si­ble for the shoot­ings. I’m so proud of the work the guys have done be­cause they’ve had a fo­cus on this right from the be­gin­ning and it was very hard as a leader to let them do their work and not to be drawn in all of the time. It was really the big­gest test for me be­cause I knew what was go­ing on be­hind the scenes with the Com­bined Forces Spe­cial En­force­ment Unit, our po­lice and the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the other po­lice de­part­ments across the re­gion. I’m very proud of the work the po­lice have done and can only hope that we’ve closed the door on that chap­ter. Now it’s up to the Jus­tice sys­tem and I hope the per­pe­tra­tors get the book thrown at them be­cause it’s been a hor­ri­ble year as the Queen would say. I’m con­cerned about what the sys­tem will do af­ter that one per­son with the Sur­rey Six got just a year. I was hor­ri­fied at that sen­tence. That is not a de­ter­rent! Those shoot­ings have really pushed us to keep pub­lic safety front and cen­tre as an as­pect of ev­ery­thing I have to think about. We have in­creased the school po­lice units, the Wrap Around pro­gram for redi­rect­ing at risk youth from join­ing gangs, and we in­creased Block Watch groups in this past year by over two hun­dred. We now have a to­tal of seven hun­dred across the city, the most ever. Those Block Watch teams cre­ate a greater knowl­edge of both one’s own com­mu­nity and one’s neigh­bours, so all of that helps. Mainly though, I think this has been a re­sult of the work done by the Sur­rey RCMP through com­mu­nity meet­ings and the Cof­fee with a Cop pro­gram, and their con­tin­ued fo­cus on safety in the com­mu­nity.

Ray Hud­son: We had a ma­jor is­sue with neigh­bour­hood en­vi­ron­ments such as the one around the New­ton Wave Pool and the Arena where Julie Pas­cal was mur­dered. What has been done to im­prove th­ese neigh­bour­hood prob­lem ar­eas?

Mayor Hep­ner: The pro­gram is called Com­mu­nity Polic­ing Through En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign pro­grams (pro­nounced CePTED) and I’ll speak that first be­cause we’ve done some pretty ag­gres­sive work on CPTED pro­grams for pub­lic build­ings that have asked for our as­sis­tance. We’re now putting in place, CPTED prin­ci­ples for those build­ings that have not asked for the as­sis­tance, but that we be­lieve are trou­ble­some build­ings. We are in­sist­ing that they have CPTED prin­ci­ples at­tached to their premises. Around New­ton specif­i­cally, we worked ag­gres­sively to bring in some cre­ative cul­tural pro­gram­ming, and some work around the ‘grove’ be­hind the Wave Pool. We put more scru­tiny around that area in a pos­i­tive way.

Our new de­sign of the New­ton Wave Pool fit­ness area puts win­dows in the build­ing so peo­ple could look out to­ward the street, re­plac­ing the blank wall that was a haz­ard from the as­pect of pub­lic view­ing of the area. As we’re go­ing about new con­struc­tion we’re making that area more invit­ing. When we’re done, we’ll have many more eyes on the street in that area. The other ma­jor pub­lic safety ac­com­plish­ment this past year was the re­cent ap­point­ment of Terry Water­house as Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Safety Strate­gies. He will in­clude not just the ob­vi­ous po­lice and fire de­part­ments, but all de­part­ments con­cerned with our safety from by­laws to engi­neer­ing, and the ex­ter­nal agen­cies to op­ti­mize all pub­lic safety re­sources avail­able to the City of Sur­rey to de­velop the strate­gies and syn­er­gies be­tween them all. I was thrilled with his ap­point­ment. I think he’s got an enor­mous amount of ex­pe­ri­ence and look for­ward to de­vel­op­ing our pub­lic safety strat­egy.

LRT Timeline Ray Hud­son: What is the sta­tus of the prom­ise you made on de­vel­op­ment of the LRT. I know there have been some set­backs so what is your timetable on that now? Mayor Hep­ner: I have not aban­doned my timetable other than to say that the plebiscite im­pacted it by a num­ber of months, and now we’ve got a game-changer in a new fed­eral gov­ern­ment. We also are yet to de­fine where our re­gional fund­ing will come from but I think most of the Mayor’s Coun­cil is in align­ment with ex­plor­ing mo­bil­ity (road) pric­ing to what­ever de­gree is pos­si­ble. But I think we are closer now than we have ever been to get­ting the se­nior gov­ern­ment fund­ing an­nounce­ment. I know that the prov­ince has al­ready said that they are pre­pared to fund so I think with those two lev­els of fund­ing, come fed­eral bud­get time in the early spring, I’m hope­ful we’ll hear more about how the fed­eral fund­ing pro­gram will work. In the mean­time I’ll be work­ing with my fel­low may­ors on how we’ll ad­vance the mo­bil­ity pric­ing piece in time to match a con­struc­tion timetable for those ma­jor projects that may be three, four, five years down the road. Here’s my Christ­mas list for the LRT, be­cause it does not move out of the pri­or­ity stream of our projects, it is fun­da­men­tal to the growth of our city. I hope we can do fi­nanc­ing by 2016, pro­cure­ment 2017 and start con­struc­tion 2018. It’s ag­gres­sive but it’s still my timeline, and the way we’ve had our dis­cus­sion with the se­nior man­age­ment of the city.

Sus­tain­abil­ity: Mayor Hep­ner: We fi­nally con­cluded the deal on the Bio­fuel Pro­cess­ing Fa­cil­ity and it’s un­der con­struc­tion. When it’s done, we ex­pect, by the end of 2016 it will pro­vide enough fuel for our city ve­hi­cles and the garbage pick up fleet. More than that, it’s go­ing to be a show­place, be­ing one of the first closed-loop sys­tems in all of North Amer­ica. We are al­ready get­ting re­quests to come and visit and talk about it from as far away as Texas. We know we’ll be a place of learn­ing for oth­ers once it’s up and run­ning which will be an­other first for us in in­no­va­tion. We’ve done a lot of work and we’ve learned a lot about P3’s and if the new fed­eral gov­ern­ment keeps it as a cap­i­tal con­struc­tion re­quire­ment, we’ll be well aligned to take ad­van­tage of it for trans­porta­tion.

Ray Hud­son: With so much hous­ing be­ing built across the city, how are you deal­ing with the loss of canopy as the trees are re­moved for new homes. Mayor Hep­ner: There are two or three things at play here. When you’re build­ing houses that are af­ford­able for young peo­ple, and you know that Sur­rey’s pop­u­la­tion is made up of more young peo­ple that any­where else in the Prov­ince, it doesn’t hap­pen on big lots. The way to pre­serve land is to cre­ate den­sity, which scares peo­ple, so you try and do den­si­fi­ca­tion around small lot homes. It’s dif­fi­cult to save a tree around a small lot. You save two or three trees on a sin­gle-fam­ily lot and you’re plant­ing more be­cause our by­laws say you have to, but it will take a decade to show up. I can see the canopy his­tor­i­cally, be­cause my history with the city al­lows me to do this. When I saw the trees come down in Am­ble Green (in south Sur­rey) in the early to mid-eight­ies, ev­ery­body was up in arms about what this was go­ing to look like. Now I see peo­ple when they come to the pub­lic hear­ings, and re­fer­ring to Am­ble Green as a model neigh­bour­hood, I have to re­mind my­self that that’s what new neigh­bour­hoods will look like twenty years from now. I made a prom­ise in the State of the City ad­dress, that we were go­ing to dou­ble the num­ber of trees that we plant in the pub­lic realm. This year we planted 5,000 trees which will cre­ate a canopy for a beau­ti­ful city and when we look at our full-on pro­tected green spa­ces, as well as those we are keep­ing for our bio­di­ver­sity strate­gies, we have tremen­dous green spa­ces, prob­a­bly more than most ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try. So I’m not as con­cerned where we in­tended hous­ing to go I ex­pect trees will have to come down. Where we don’t in­tend hous­ing to go, I fully ex­pect we can pre­serve and cre­ate within those new hous­ing en­velopes an ur­ban realm that will re­place a canopy.

Next week we’ll fin­ish the year end story with Mayor Hep­ner, but leave you with this “win” ap­pro­pri­ate to the sea­son. A high­light for me was just two weeks ago when stu­dents from KP Wood­ward, an in­ner-city school came into my of­fice and dec­o­rated my Christ­mas tree for me. It was a great time and they were so keen to be in there, were full of ques­tions such as, how one gets to be mayor. That was pretty spe­cial to me be­cause I can see on their faces the word “pos­si­ble” which means that any­thing is pos­si­ble. I like that feel­ing.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Sur­rey Mayor Linda Hep­ner.

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