2011: A year through Peace Arch News

A glance back at the year 2011 will be an emotional journey for some, political for others and, perhaps, merely incidental for a few.

  • Dec. 29, 2011 6:00 p.m.

A glance back at the year 2011 will be an emotional journey for some, political for others and, perhaps regrettably, merely incidental for a few.

Inevitably, it will spark motivation for many of us to strive for improvement in the days ahead. Whether one has a tendency to focus on the positives or negatives, going over the triumphs and the tragedies within our community for the past year is bound to stir reaction.

So sit back and see where your thoughts take you, as you peruse this  month-by-month review of Peace Arch News’ most-talked-about items of 2011:

January

Trees removed in error by the City of Surrey near 14 Avenue and 126A Street are blamed by a local safety watchdog for causing slope instability above the railway. A series of mudslides in the area later buries a 30-foot section of the track and causes Amtrak to suspend its Seattle-to-Vancouver passenger train for several days.

• • •

The City of White Rock purchases the Church of Christ, Scientist property at 1174 Fir St. for $1.6 million. The city now owns the entire block where city hall, police and the fire department are located.

• • •

Crash vehicles

A South Surrey man is killed while driving along 16 Avenue after a dump truck crosses a double-yellow line to pass a car and collides with the man’s truck head-on. Ten months later, a 63-year-old man appears in Surrey Provincial Court on a charge of dangerous driving causing death.

• • •

One day after unleashing a storm of controversy over a proposed teacher-reward program, BC Liberal leadership hopeful and Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon says his idea was “misunderstood.”

• • •

White Rock city council passes a motion to declare Mayor Catherine Ferguson’s actions and statements regarding the removal of photographs from council chambers the previous summer “inappropriate.” The move came after a formal inquiry into the matter was called off prematurely after Ferguson hired a lawyer to dispute the legality of the investigation, raising questions about the enforceability of council’s code of conduct.

• • •

Former Softball BC bookkeeper, Karline Frances Elliott, who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $400,000 from the organization over a 2½-year period, is sentenced to three years in prison.

• • •

The former chief of staff at Peace Arch Hospital slams the emergency room’s overcrowding problem as “the worst I’ve ever seen,” upon returning to the hospital to fill in earlier in the month. The health ministry responds by saying the situation is being closely monitored, noting winter months are traditionally busy for emergency departments.

• • •

White Rock resident and former director of engineering for the Municipality of Delta, Kip Gaudry, is sentenced to 18 months in prison for possessing thousands of images and movies of child pornography, described by the judge as “toward the more horrible end of the scale.”

 

February

Surrey Coun. Bob Bose is left as the only voice of opposition on city council, after Coun. Marvin Hunt accepts Mayor Dianne Watts’ invitation to join Surrey First.

• • •

EMS rally

The Surrey School District announces two high schools – Earl Marriott and Lord Tweedsmuir – would be adopting an extended class schedule in the fall to address overcrowding. Students at EMS later stage a walkout to protest the changes; and about 60 Lord Tweedsmuir students drop in on Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon’s offices to ask for more provincial funding for Surrey schools.

• • •

An 18-year-old woman is struck and killed by a police cruiser as she attempts to cross King George Boulevard near 98 Avenue, at an unmarked area of the road. The incident is investigated by Abbotsford police, who say the officer was not en route to a call and did not have the vehicle’s lights or sirens on when the pedestrian was hit. Six months later, police announce they found “insufficient evidence” to support a charge.

• • •

Peace Arch Hospital’s brand-new maternity ward officially opens with a ceremony attended by local dignitaries, donors and guests. The new ward – which has three times the birthing capacity of the old one – was one of five projects in the hospital’s $32-million Partners in Caring campaign.

• • •

White Rock city council is met with angry residents who give council an earful regarding a decision to accept an appeal by Royal Avenue residents looking for permission to remove city trees. After the opposition continues to grow, the city makes an offer to neighbours to remove only two of three trees in question. Residents later march to city hall with remnants of the trees to protest the city’s tree-cutting policy.

• • •

Citing a reliance on ‘spin’ and a reluctance to admit error or listen to advice, some local Conservatives express “thinning” support for MP Russ Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale), news that comes as a surprise to the president of the local electoral district association, who dismisses the criticism as being limited to a select few.

• • •Serpentine crash

A woman in her mid-20s is pulled from the Serpentine River after crashing her car through the barrier of the Serpentine Bridge. Though she is revived after spending approximately 90 minutes submerged, she succumbs to her injuries 12 days later. RCMP announce in March they believe a second vehicle may have been involved in the crash. Results of a Ministry of Transportation review of the section of guard rail that failed to prevent the woman from going into the river are expected in January.

• • •

Five months after 15-year-old Laura Szendrei is beaten to death in a Delta park, police announce first-degree murder charges have been laid against an 18-year-old man.

March

Two vehicles belonging to White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers are vandalized while parked in front of her home, an incident Fathers speculates may have ties to tensions over the city’s tree policy.

• • •

A man with an assault rifle and handgun in his vehicle is shot dead by Surrey RCMP near King George Boulevard and Highway 10, following a police chase that started in South Surrey. The man is later identified as 28-year-old Adam Purdie, who friends say helped people recover from drug and alcohol abuse. In October, an investigation into the incident by Saanich Police clears the officer who shot Purdie of any wrongdoing.

• • •

 Chizue ListerEffects of a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan are felt locally by Peninsula residents – some of whom have family in the midst of the disaster. A White Rock woman later travels to Japan, risking entry into the evacuation zone, to rescue starving, abandoned pets left behind.

• • •

White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers announces she is parting ways with Citizens for Positive Renewal and will serve the rest of her term as an independent, attributing the decision to a matter of “conscience.”

• • •

The City of Surrey launches legal action against former city planner Akonyu Akolo, alleging he used city money to buy a $600,000 North Delta home. Surrey RCMP later press charges against Akolo in relation to his alleged misappropriation of funds.

• • •

Chlorination of White Rock’s drinking water is made permanent after a report on the 2010 boil-water advisory – triggered by traces of E. coli found in the water supply – deems it necessary.

• • •Premier Christy Clark

Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon’s dreams of leading the province are dashed after Christy Clark wins leadership of the BC Liberal party.

• • •

A 23-year-old man is shot dead by police in Crescent Beach after an exchange of gunfire with officers responding to a domestic-disturbance call. Vancouver Police Department is tasked to investigate.

• • •

After a tumultuous few years that included an attempted overthrow and a visit to B.C. Supreme Court, the White Rock Business Improvement Association is renewed for five years.

• • •

In keeping with her campaign promise, new Liberal leader Christy Clark announces a mail-in referendum will take place later in the year on whether to keep the much-debated harmonized sales tax.

April

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert is criticized for “jumping the gun” with campaigning by mailing out a pamphlet before the federal election was officially called. Hiebert denies the literature – paid for by his electoral district association – broke any rules.

• • •

Five teenagers face charges after a Surrey musician is beaten after getting off a bus near Scott Road and 74 Avenue.

• • •

Concept plans for the White Rock Muffler site on Marine Drive are met with anger, confusion and curiosity, when it’s revealed the developer wants to build to six storeys, beyond the current zoning allowance of three. A 114-name petition later created by neighbours calls on council to stop the proposal. The developer later scales back the project’s overall height to four storeys, but the proposed changes do little to ease neighbours’ concerns. In October, White Rock council gives a thumbs-up to zoning and Official Community Plan bylaw amendments that enable the project to move forward. The next step is the development permit review process.

• • •

After low enrolment numbers prompted parents to move their children elsewhere, the Surrey School District announces Laronde Elementary will be French-immersion only starting in September.

• • •

Federal Green party candidate Alan Saldana (Fleetwood-Port Kells) quits the election race after it is revealed his Facebook profile lists his favourite quote as: “If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it!”

• • •

Citing a “new focus,” the City of White Rock hands over bylaw-enforcement duties to city-trained peace officers, ending the 22-year rule of contracted commissionaires.

• • •

An apparent road-rage incident results in a 30-year-old Surrey man being shot dead near 128 Street and 68 Avenue.

• • •

Nineteen-year-old Surrey resident Devon Allaire-Bell is stabbed to death near Frank Hurt Secondary, after he and a friend were confronted by a group of young men.

• • •

A 41-year-old Surrey man’s foot is severed after he is struck from behind by a freight train while walking along the tracks south of Marine Drive. Officials believe the man was wearing headphones and was unable to hear the train’s horn, which was sounded numerous times.

May

Local voters have their say in the 41st federal election, choosing Russ Hiebert (Conservative, South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale), Jinny Sims (NDP, Newton-North Delta), Nina Grewal (Conservative, Fleetwood-Port Kells) and Jasbir Sandhu (NDP, Surrey-North).

• • •

A motion by Mayor Catherine Ferguson to suspend applications for tree-removal while the city’s controversial Policy 611 is reviewed is narrowly voted down.

• • •

Overcrowding at Peace Arch Hospital is back in the news, after general surgeon Dr. John Todd describes the facility as “bursting at the seams,” noting that “nurses are in despair and patients are being neglected.”

• • •

The car of 22-year-old Kassandra Kaulius is T-boned at 64 Avenue and 152 Street, killing the Clayton Heights Secondary alumnus, who was returning home from a softball game. Witnesses report seeing a woman flee into a nearby wooded area, and police arrest a 34-year-old Surrey woman in connection with the crash.

• • •

A City of Surrey staff report showing the use of closed-circuit TV cameras has decreased the occurrence of auto theft prompts Mayor Dianne Watts to call for more cameras to be used in “hot spots.”

• • •

As the HST referendum nears, the BC Liberals announce plans to cut the tax rate by two percentage points over the next three years if voters opt to keep the controversial tax.

• • •

Family members of victims of a 2009 float plane crash off Saturna Island file negligence lawsuits against the company, pilot and others, seeking damages.

• • •

A 56-year-old White Rock woman is killed by a hit-and-run driver in a crosswalk at Johnston Road and Thrift Avenue, after the driver had been flagged to stop by a White Rock RCMP officer less than a block away. Two months later, White Rock RCMP arrest a 19-year-old Surrey man, who faces six charges in connection with the fatality.

• • •

Despite concerns voiced by neighbouring Miramar Village residents about amendments to the design of the final two Bosa towers, the project is given the green light by the city and is expected to get underway next spring.

June

White Rock firefighters refuse to take part in a city employee-satisfaction poll, citing lingering hard feelings over the city considering contracting out its fire services to Surrey last year. Months later, officials from the fire department meet with the city in an effort to mend the fence.

• • •

Residents along 32 Avenue concerned with the high volume of passing diesel trucks form a coalition in an effort to get trucks banned on the busy South Surrey street.

• • •

A White Rock city staffer is banned from the RCMP station where she had been working as administration manager, after she is deemed “unsuitable to continue work at the detachment.”

• • •

After attempting to find an appropriate and catchy brand, the City of White Rock decides on ‘City by the Sea.’

• • •

Surrey and White Rock announce plans for staff to collaborate on development ideas for the cities’ shared town centre.

• • •

Former Surrey School District official Bob Chadwick is handed an 18-month conditional sentence after pleading guilty to breach of trust for siphoning tens of thousands of dollars from the district.

• • •

A 16-year-old is found guilty of manslaughter in the stabbing death of Surrey’s Sam McGowan, 42. Sentencing is set for Jan. 27.

• • •

Despite an expected multi-million-dollar deficit, the Surrey School District manages to balance its budget for the 2011-2012 school year by using money left over from the previous year’s budget.

• • •

Job action by Canada Post employees threatens to interfere with the HST referendum, as Elections BC officials try to mail out more than three million ballots to homes across the province. The federal government later passes controversial back-to-work legislation.

• • •

Four RCMP officers involved in the “Surrey Six” homicide case face a total of 20 charges – including breach of trust, obstruction of justice and fraud – stemming from allegations of an inappropriate relationship between an investigating officer and a witness.

• • •Canuck fans in Surrey

The Vancouver Canucks lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins, setting off a riot in Downtown Vancouver that included fires, looting and damaged property. Meanwhile in Surrey, thousands of fans gather to watch the game at Central City Plaza, but the crowd remains well-behaved during and after the game.

• • •

Community members gather to celebrate the grand opening of White Rock’s Centre for Active Living at Centennial Park, a health facility valued at $6.6 million.

July

A vote by the TransLink Mayors’ Council in support of increasing gas taxes prompts White Rock councillors to encourage Peninsula residents to fill their tanks south of the border.

• • •

In an effort to address heavy traffic on 32 Avenue, the City of Surrey announces plans to widen the road to four lanes between 154 and 160 streets in 2012.

• • •

Erosion along the Fraser River is blamed for a toppled BC Hydro transmission tower that fell in North Surrey, downing powerlines and forcing the closure of Highway 1 and Lougheed Highway.

• • •

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts suffers two broken vertebrae in a horseback-riding accident in Kamloops.

• • •

A 60,000-gallon sewage spill on White Rock’s West Beach – caused by a blocked sanitary sewage main under Marine Drive – forced the closure of the popular swimming spot for three days.

• • •

After the annual Spirit of the Sea Festival fireworks show is set to be cancelled due to lack of sponsorship, Semiahmoo First Nation steps in to foot the bill for the 45-minute spectacle at White Rock Beach.

August

Jonathan Bacon, the eldest of the notorious trio of brothers, is shot dead in broad daylight outside a Kelowna hotel. Four others are injured in the attack.

• • •

White Rock Coun. Grant Meyer ignites a heated debate when he voices his support to have South Surrey join White Rock.

• • •

A Crescent Beach resident suffers serious facial injuries after he’s attacked by a group of teenage boys a block from his home.

• • •

A two-year-old South Surrey boy suffers only a broken nose after falling three storeys through a screen, an outcome RCMP call “amazing.”

• • •

An overnight collision involving a wrong-way driver on Highway 10 kills three and leaves one woman injured.

• • •

A 26-year-old Surrey man is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his wife, after an attack at a Newton newspaper office where she worked.

• • •

Surrey’s new 77,000-sq.-ft. City Centre Library – with a price tag of $36 million – opens to the public.

• • •

A woman involved in a car crash with Mayor Dianne Watts in 2010 files a lawsuit against the mayor, her husband and the company that leased Watts’ SUV to her, seeking undisclosed damages.

• • •

Federal NDP leader Jack Layton, 61, is remembered across the country and locally after losing his life to cancer.

• • •

British Columbians vote 54.73 per cent in favour of scrapping the harmonized sales tax; local BC Liberal constituencies vote to keep the tax.

September

More than a dozen luxury vehicles, valued at up to $3 million, are impounded after reports of street racing on Highway 99 prompt White Rock and South Surrey police to pull over 13 drivers. Each of the drivers was fined $196. While criminal charges were not pursued, RCMP recommended vehicles be seized by the BC Civil Forfeiture office.

• • •

After announcing in August they’d run in the municipal election under a Team White Rock slate, former city manager Wayne Baldwin, former councillor Cliff Annable and Brad Forster, husband of former mayor Judy Forster, decide to part ways and run independently.

• • •

A report from White Rock’s director of engineering warns that corroded lamp standards and arches along the pier are putting pedestrians at risk of “severe personal injury,” and recommends immediate repairs, estimated to cost more than $400,000. Council voted in favour of the project.

• • •

The school year is off to a bumpy start when the BC Teachers Federation files strike notice, which includes the refusal of administrative duties such as report cards and supervising playgrounds.

• • •

Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele is criticized by opponents for endorsing former premier Gordon Campbell’s nomination for the Order of B.C.

• • •

Linda KlitchThe Semiahmoo Peninsula mourns the loss of Linda Klitch, publisher of Peace Arch News and community champion, who died suddenly after complications from surgery. The White Rock South Surrey Community Foundation establishes the Linda Klitch Legacy Fund to continue her efforts to provide support for those who need it.

• • •

White Rock resident and former VPD officer Peter Hodson is sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to trafficking marijuana and breach of trust earlier in the year. In December, Hodson is stabbed in the neck by a fellow inmate at Pacific Institution, but is expected to fully recover from his injuries.

• • •

Surrey councillors express anger after a company that promised to help revitalize a Newton mall in exchange for gaming zoning sold the property to another company not required to fulfill the original promises.

• • •

A mysterious rash contracted by Surrey SPCA staff closes the office and cancels the organization’s Paws for a Cause fundraiser. The root of the problem was determined to be a particularly rare form of ringworm.

October

Nineteen-year-old SFU student Maple Batalia dies after being shot in the City Central parkade near the school’s Surrey campus. In December, police announce they have seized a car they believe was driven by her killer.

• • •

The poor economy is blamed for the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce eliminating its executive director position, held by Cori Lynn Germiquet. The chamber cancels plans to hold an all-candidates meeting ahead of the municipal election, citing a need to be fiscally prudent.

• • •

White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson announces she will not seek re-election in November’s municipal election, prompting former city manager Wayne Baldwin to announce his candidacy for the mayor’s chair. Coun. Lynne Sinclair, former council candidate Larry Anschell and new White Rock resident Angelo Megla also step into the race for the city’s top job, while sitting Coun. Doug McLean announces he won’t be running again. Megla later withdraws from the race, citing family matters.

• • •

Despite a last-minute appeal for ticket-buyers, Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation’s WinFall Lottery falls short, selling only two-thirds of tickets and failing to break even.

• • •

White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers and former councillor Cliff Annable admit to commenting online anonymously at peacearchnews.com after first denying participating in the practise, sparking a flurry of debate.

• • •

An 18-year-old Surrey resident is stabbed and later dies after intervening in an altercation near 128 Street and 72 Avenue.

• • •

Weeks after announcing her plans to quit local politics, Mayor Catherine Ferguson announces she’ll be taking over as executive director of the White Rock South Surrey Hospice Society in the new year.

• • •

A visit from former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Surrey’s economic summit attracts more than 200 protestors, many of whom allege Bush is guilty of war crimes and should be arrested.

November

Former White Rock city manager Wayne Baldwin wins the city’s mayoral chair. Incumbent councillors Grant Meyer, Mary-Wade Anderson, Helen Fathers and Al Campbell are re-elected, joined by former councillor Louise Hutchinson and first-time politician Larry Robinson.

• • •

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First slate sweep council, marking the first time in Surrey’s history the city will be governed by a single civic organization.

• • •

Judges at the B.C. Court of Appeal reserve judgment in the case of Carol Berner, who’s appealing her convictions in the 2008 impaired-driving death of toddler Alexa Middelaer. No date for the decision has been announced.

• • •

Bob BoseLongtime Surrey councillor and former mayor Bob Bose – who had been the only non-Surrey First vote on council prior to the election – packs up his office at city hall after his Surrey Civic Coalition is soundly beaten by Watts’ party.

• • •

The provincial government announces $300 million in capital funding for school projects throughout B.C., including $102-million worth of new schools and expansions in Surrey.

• • •

A White Rock man is among passengers who survive a plane crash on a Richmond road. The plane’s pilot and co-pilot die from their injuries.

• • •

A senior resident at Kiwanis Park Place dies after falling ill as a result of E. coli. Tests have not confirmed the cause of the woman’s death.

December

Residents of Breakaway Bays mobile-home park, many of them seniors, have a chilly few days after most lose power.

• • •

Two Surrey women are charged with break-and-enter and theft under $5,000 in connection with the theft of a dog in Coquitlam. The women, both involved with A Better Life Dog Rescue, defend their actions, citing “humanitarian reasons” for taking the dog.

• • •

In his inaugural speech as White Rock mayor, Wayne Baldwin announces plans to put an end to pre-scheduled in-camera meetings, hold quarterly public forums and establish a new council committee to monitor external communications.

• • •

Residents who want the truck-route designation removed from 32 Avenue are disappointed and embarrassed to learn that the City of Surrey hadn’t penned its support as promised – a revelation that only came when their group appeared as a delegation before TransLink.

• • •

Two people who received lengthy driving bans in connection with alleged street racing of luxury vehicles along Highway 99 in August appeal the penalties, claiming they were issued without evidence.

• • •

A spate of violence over Christmas weekend – resulting in three shooting deaths in Surrey and one in Langley – are unrelated and not linked to gangs, according to police.

 

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