The future of White Rock looks bright, according to Mayor Wayne Baldwin who delivered his annual state-of-the-city address at a business-sponsored function Wednesday evening.
Baldwin highlighted some of council’s successes from his past term in office, and outlined priorities for the current council.
At the outset of his 30-minute speech, hosted by the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, Baldwin acknowledged a group of about 20 protestors outside of White Rock Community Centre, who were staging the second rally in recent weeks calling for Baldwin’s resignation.
“More than 200 years ago, Voltaire said ‘I disagree with what you say, but would defend to the death your right to say it,'” Baldwin said, noting his 15 years in the army meant he agreed with the sentiment. “While I disapprove of what those outside were saying, I will defend their right to say it in an appropriate time and place. But maybe not to the death.”
Baldwin described the “many successes” of city council since he took office nearly four years ago.
Among accomplishments, Baldwin noted increased rail safety and whistle cessation, changes to the solid-waste utility, successful arts festivals and events, an increase in community outreach and a near-complete tourism strategy.
Garnering applause from the audience of around 65 – including councillors and city staff – was mention of the city’s ongoing takeover of the water utility, which Baldwin touted as “the largest single expenditure in city history.”
Looking ahead, Baldwin made note of the Official Community Plan update (expected to be completed by December 2016), Johnston Road improvements (estimated to be finished by the end of 2017), increased ice time and waterfront improvements.
Baldwin also lamented on the city’s “physical challenge” of connecting people from uptown to the waterfront, and announced that city staff are exploring the feasibility of a funicular system.
“This is something that would be a waterfront attraction, as well as serve as a practical means of getting people, including those with mobility limitations, up and down the hillside,” Baldwin said of the “ambitious” project.
The subject of relocating the railway was also mentioned, as Baldwin acknowledged the scope of embarking on such a project.
“We recognize that this will be a long process, one that is not likely to be concluded in this term of office,” he said.
Baldwin ended on an optimistic note, saying that while change is inevitable, he believed it could be managed in a “constructive, transparent, collaborative and positive” manner.
“Get your sunglasses ready, because the future of White Rock is exceedingly bright,” he said.