No way to encourage democracy
An open letter to Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and council.
I do not understand why the Jan. 14 public hearing on the proposed casino was so disorganized and archaic.
You knew, approximately, how many speakers there would be and that they would speak for three to five minutes each. If basic mathematics was worked out, breakfast should have been served up!
At the beginning of the evening, you easily could have said that you will handle 30 speakers from each side and the rest would speak on Friday.
Don’t tell me this has worked for 25 years and therefore last night should have been no problem. Give me a break. Times change, meetings vary, progress happens.
We asked city council three times for a change of venue, to either the Pacific Inn, Bell Centre or Sheraton Hotel, where parking would not be a problem. “No way,” was your answer. Your reply was that the first to come would be the first in line, and that you will do it the way you have been conducting meetings for the past 25 years.
We know of a few Surrey residents who parked their vehicles in the underground parking and were not able to retrieve their vehicles when they wanted to leave that night. The gate was down and locked at 8 p.m.
You could have organized security to remain at the parking areas till everyone retrieved their cars safely.
There were many residents in the foyer, who had nowhere to sit while they waited for their turn to speak. Students wanting to speak were still hanging around at 1 a.m. waiting for information. These students were meant to be at school in the early morning to sit exams.
Gateway employees grabbed most of the seating areas in the foyer to enjoy their ‘donated’ dinners and did not show any respect – by their continuous chatting – to other residents who were trying to hear the televised public hearing. The sound was dreadful.
In council chambers, awaiting speakers stood, leaning against the wall, for hours. Chairs should be provided, all along each side, so that speakers don’t become exhausted while waiting for their turn. Many were elderly, and it was inconsiderate to expect them to stand for hours.
This is no way to encourage citizens to participate in public debate, but rather puts people off, as it becomes an endurance test, rather than a practice in democracy.
Michael Pohlmann, Surrey
Casino groundswell not news
Re: City doubles down on casino hearings, Jan. 17.
I would like to make a clarification regarding news stories of the Jan. 14 public meeting on the Surrey casino proposal held at Surrey City Hall.
News reports indicated a majority in favour of the proposal in attendance. This should have been expected as Gateway showed up with their usual group of off-duty staff, and the majority of speakers in favour of the proposal were made up of paid consultants, business partners, casino staff and BC Lottery Corporation staff – all with a vested interest should the proposal pass.
The speakers opposed to the project, the residents who live in the community – 93 per cent of whom do not want a casino – came not for any financial gain, but to try to preserve the integrity of their neighbourhood.
Dale Michaud, Surrey