Newton Residents Fearful, Furious and Frustrated…

We dodged a bullet in South Surrey when we avoided the proposed South Surrey Casino and all it’s associated crime, but Newton was not so lucky. A once beautiful neighbourhood, has been neglected by city officials and has become a dangerous place for residents and visitors alike.

In light of this week’s horrific and unprovoked attack of Hockey Mom Julie Paskall, we need some answers from Mayor Watts on the ongoing neglect of Newton, the heart of Surrey.
Julie Paskall

The Newton Community Association is holding their monthly meeting this Monday Jan 6th at the Newton Seniors Centre at 7pm. Surrey residents are welcome to attend. We don’t have all the answers, but now is the time for action and solutions. Let’s get to work. First for Julie Paskall and her grieving family, and then for everyone who calls Surrey home. Click here for details.

3 thoughts on “Newton Residents Fearful, Furious and Frustrated…

  1. I was once a strong Diane Watts supporter, with the hope that her clear strong work ethic, determination and willingness to take on the difficult problems would finally win out over the frontier mentality that has been Surrey from our first arrival in 1981 under the ‘RobFordesque’ leadership of Ed McKitka, through the unfettered development era of Mayor McCallum. I am a Watts supporter still for many projects like hatching a university, attempting to transform the nightmare of old Whalley, for pursuing rapid transit and for when she takes a brave stand like voting against the powerful gaming ‘industry’ in South Surrey’s interest. However, I don’t feel much safer here in South Surrey than the do the apparently abandoned residents of Newton, as the crime in Surrey permeates every nook and cranny, much of it now normalised with the astonishing title of the ‘drug industry’. Ditto ‘gaming’ and it’s many illegal side-effects.

    I’ve come to believe that the problem with Surrey is that it is just too big in physical area, and growing much too fast to be managed by one mayor and council, no matter how sincere their efforts. No matter how hard they work, they cannot understand and be responsive to the needs of each area. You only have to look at Toronto’s disaster of an experiment with a combined metro government to see how unhappy a ‘solution’ this is. Democracy does not flourish when citizens do not believe they are well-represented, but rather are just a number, a source of tax revenue, and the cause of annoyance to be appeased.

    One problem is that city hall keeps growing to try to keep up with this rampant development. As it grows, it becomes, by necessity, less and less a reflection of the will of it’s citizens, and more and more a ‘top down’ administration (in spite of the knee-jerk responsive nature of Twitter access to some councillors). Residents in the various distinct regions of Surrey have little real input to thoughtful forward planning for their area because council is reduced to putting out fires, and trying to settle conflicts and allocate scarce tax money that is increasingly absorbed by administrative expansion. A look at your property tax bill will free you from any illusion that rapid development pays it’s way – the increased services, policing, etc. just never have a chance to catch up, and we just try to mediate after the fact.

    Surrey is just too big, and growing too fast, to work. The last 15 years have seen it only ramp up, faster and faster. There is no stability to feel that your neighbourhood will remain a safe and pleasant place to live and raise a family for any reasonable period of time( never mind age in place) . The only certainty is that it will soon (and maybe repeatedly) be ripped apart by the next developer-led brainstorm. People keep giving up and moving on to what initially appears to be a healthier neighbourhood, only to find the crime and instability has moved with them. Neighbourhoods where people don’t know each other well enough to interact, where you must hide behind locks and gates, where the kids can’t play outside safely, are not healthy. They aren’t really neighbourhoods, are they?

    The neighbourhood consultation process is flawed, because both the City, and engaged neighbourhoods put years into the process of developing a plan, only to see it re-opened by un-satisfied developers -in as little as a year after supposed finalisation- because there has been no bylaw enacted to ensure that this hard-won plan is actually followed.

    To clarify, developers are not the problem! They come in all types, good, bad and indifferent. The problem is a system that allows developers to lead council, over-riding the wishes of the neighbourhood. And to be fair to council, how could they fairly manage this behemoth that is Surrey? It is far easier to follow developers lead, than to risk derailment by competing and conflicting citizen and neighbourhood need and opinion. And also to be fair, residents who only show an interest in how city governance affects their neighbourhood after everything is falling apart, do not make it easy for any council to support them. If we trouble to stay a little bit aware all the time, it is harder to be ignored.

    This family and neighbourhood tragedy in Newton is something for which we should all grieve deeply. But this terrible crime is more than Newton’s problem. It is happening all over Surrey, all the time, if by various means. All are dangerous to the individual and further undermine a civilized society. It is a symptom of the underlying disfunction of the way we live in and manage our neighbourhoods.

    An anecdote which might give you pause: Last year we took the infamous ‘Black Taxi’ tour of the still troubled sectarian areas of Belfast, Ireland. Our driver, a survivor of a childhood in the worst of those times, was extremely shocked to hear of the murder rate we tolerate as ‘normal’ in our beautiful Vancouver, of which Surrey provides the greatest number. It’s not normal, it’s monstrous.

    Another idea: Check out how New York City’s successful campaign to take back the streets. They doubled the police force…. and put them to walking their beats. More money for policing, much less for all other costs of crime. And safe streets are good for legitimate business.

    And please Mayor Diane, don’t cut down any more trees. Instead, our young children need more beautiful outdoor and natural places so they can play at being something other than back-alley drug dealers. Put some of those new police on horseback to keep the parks safe, and also so the kids can get to know that police are good people to have around, and horses are even nicer! My Vancouver grandchildren’s best summer camp experience is ‘Farm Camp’. Can you imagine how wonderful that would be for those kids living in high-rises. And maybe more community gardens for them to carry out what they learned?

    Why don’t we slow down this insane and unmanageable pace of development, and try and get our existing neighbourhoods healthy again?

    Alisa Wilson

    • Well said Alisa! Please forward this to the Editors of the Peace Arch News and Surrey Now. This message needs to be heard.
      Thanks!
      Scott

  2. I to am concerned that Mayor Watts and council are not serving all the citizens of Surrey.

    The tragic slaying of “hockey mom”, Julie Paskall has been devastating for everyone who calls Surrey home.

    Despite much good work achieved by Mayor and council, the reality in Newton and other at risk neighborhoods has remained. The COS routinely falls back on the spin that our growth requires a rate of development just to keep up. No doubt some truth, however Surrey’s explosive growth is not an excuse to leave existing neighborhoods behind and put citizens at risk.

    Surrey’s high profile marketing program and rebranding slogan has been impressive, absolutely, accurate, not so much. If “The Future Lives Here” it must include everyone in our City.

    The recent events in Newton highlight how quickly an area can fall from grace and suffer the ills of urban decay. Surrey is not a “Detroit”, but it could be. I mention this only because no one ever thought a City as vibrant as Detroit could die, but it is.

    If infrastructure does not keep up, Surrey will not flourish. Roads, transportation, schools, hospitals, business development and police to name a few, must be kept up. More importantly, public policy must be in place and it must be able to cope with those challenges. Newton is quickly becoming a classic example of failed public policy at the most basic level, individual public safety.

    Alisa Wilson correctly connects the dots when she states that ” Neighbourhoods where people don’t know each other well enough to interact, where you must hide behind locks and gates, where the kids can’t play outside safely, are not healthy. They aren’t really neighbourhoods, are they?”

    Alisa also makes the case for unhealthy development. “The neighbourhood consultation process is flawed, because both the City, and engaged neighbourhoods put years into the process of developing a plan, only to see it re-opened by un-satisfied developers -in as little as a year after supposed finalisation- because there has been no bylaw enacted to ensure that this hard-won plan is actually followed.”

    Surrey continues to suffer from ineffective public policy. Examples are many ranging from secondary suites and inefficient by-law enforcement to undisciplined planning and development. I have in the past supported COS professional staff and I remain confident in them, however political interference combined with development driven agendas has resulted in the worst urban sprawl ever.

    Those of you that follow “NoCasinoSurrey” did win a tremendous victory when the COS turned back a casino development in the heart of our community. When this and recent events are viewed over time, there is real concern that this fight is far from over.

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