COLUMN: Sledge of gifts for newsmakers

Peace Arch News columnist Frank Bucholtz hands out some end-of-year gifts for local politicians.

’Twas the week before Christmas, and all though Surrey

Every creature was moving, in a frantic flurry.

Yes, it’s the busy week before Christmas, and given the weather conditions and the significant snowfalls of the past few weeks, it will probably be even busier in the last few days before the holiday period.

Snow and rain overnight Sunday caused a lot of traffic chaos on Monday, particularly in North Surrey. South Surrey and White Rock got off lightly, with many roads bare and wet for the morning commute. While Highway 1 and the Port Mann Bridge were chaotic, traffic on Highway 99 was moving quite well.

It’s worth noting that road crews that maintain provincial roads and toll bridges have done a pretty good job in keeping major streets open during two weeks of winter weather.

The challenges offered this year by the Alex Fraser Bridge – which for the first time since it opened in 1986 was closed due to falling snow and ice – were particularly difficult, but traffic did move pretty well most of the time.

The provincial government did take the falling snow and ice situation seriously after it first occurred on Dec. 5 on both the Alex Fraser and Port Mann. Numerous vehicles were damaged, and the province not only paid insurance deductibles but instituted plans as complex as having a helicopter on standby to prevent further damage.

One thing the snow certainly did was get people into a winter and Christmas state of mind. That was one reason Santa was so agreeable when I pressed him to reveal a few of the gifts he has in his bag this year for local newsmakers.

As is so often the case, Santa (who has specialized in train gifts for generations) has members of the TransLink Mayors’ Council near the top of his list. For vice-chair and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, he has arranged a return trip to Portland, Ore., so she can see just how fast street-level LRT trains actually travel and how they are impacted by traffic lights.

He will also throw in a rental bicycle so she can check out how a truly bicycle-friendly city functions, and suggests she check out the low-level bike path added to Portland’s iconic Steel Bridge (a multi-level lift bridge on the Willamette River). Santa suggests such a crossing is technically possible (though perhaps politically difficult) between Surrey and New Westminster.

For Mayors’ Council chair and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Santa has an excellent book on how to raise taxes through hypnotism – so property owners don’t even realize they are going up. It is something he will need to use all his persuasive powers on, even among fellow mayors. TransLink will have to find significantly more money to actually build Surrey and Vancouver rapid-transit extensions, which will cost billions.

For Premier Christy Clark, who has been spending so much time in Surrey it could be her third home (after Vancouver and Kelowna), he has a fresh set of hard hats for her to wear to announcement after announcement, and then political event after political event, in the run up to the May 9 provincial election.

For the Surrey Board of Education, Santa is bringing construction equipment so that new schools can be built in record time.

For White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, Santa is bringing a water-testing kit so he can personally be up to date on the state of the city’s waterworks. Santa will also encourage him to finally reveal just how much the water system cost taxpayers to buy. Being a gentle sort of guy, he won’t withhold presents if the mayor refuses.

Santa and I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News. frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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