New Year's wishes for Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, and the North Shore
Here are some areas in which our largest Lower Mainland local governments can show improvement in 2014:
Vancouver: Bring spending under control. The operating budget is $1.18 billion in 2014, with nearly $500 million going to utilities and police. In 2008 before Vision Vancouver took control of the city, the operating budget was $1.05 billion. That's an increase of 12 percent. The city budgeted $197 million for police protection in 2008; this year, it's reached $234.9 million, even though crime rates continue falling. Will any candidates step forward in the 2014 election and say that enough is enough when it comes to the police budget? Does anyone have the guts to say it's absurd in tough economic times to be paying a city manager $366,009 in annual remuneration?
Surrey: Get serious about harm-reduction efforts to address drug and alcohol addiction. Mayor Dianne Watts is trying to turn Surrey Centre into the next great city in the region, but it will never reach its potential until her Surrey First party pays more attention to the scientific literature around addiction and less heed to Stephen Harper's lock-'em-all-up philosophy. Yes folks, that means embracing a supervised-injection site and providing better services to the homeless.
Burnaby: Why has it taken so long for the third-largest city in the region to allow secondary suites? It's absurd, given the magnitude of the housing crisis and the number of students attending BCIT and SFU. Without a secondary-suite bylaw, students suffer higher housing costs and are more likely to live in dangerous illegal units.
Richmond: For a couple of years, Mayor Malcolm Brodie has been bleating about a regional police force. But his city still signed a 20-year deal with the RCMP in 2012, even though officers looked like amateurs in the tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport. Let's hope that this is the year Richmond decides to grow up and have its own police force or persuades others to create a regional force. However, that seems far-fetched in light of the 20-year contract.
North Shore: Everyone on the North Shore knows that the West Vancouver police don't have enough to do, whereas on the North Shore, the Mounties sometimes have their hands full. But the chief in West Van is resistant to bringing the forces together, which means that anytime a criminal crosses Capilano Road, he moves into a different policing jurisdiction. Municipal politicians can do citizens a favour by creating a joint force. It would likely result in better policing at a lower cost to taxpayers.