EDITORIAL: Address all ratepayers

Mayors’ state-of-the-city addresses should be open to all, without a cover charge

The Surrey Board of Trade announced last week that because of job action at the Guildford Sheraton in North Surrey, the city’s annual state-of-the-city address by the mayor – scheduled for May 24 – would be postponed until some time in September.

While the announcement serves to remind us that SBOT offers many functions beneficial to all in the city, it also serves to point out the close connection between elected officials and the business group. It’s the same in neighbouring White Rock, where the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce also hosts its respective mayor’s annual state-of-the-city address.

A state-of-the-city address – not unlike the state of the union message in the United States – typically outlines the government’s economic position and includes the leader’s legislative agenda and priorities.

Last year at a luncheon in Surrey, SBOT members and guests got to learn of Mayor Linda Hepner’s desire to attract a waterpark resort to South Surrey (since abandoned by the Canadian affiliate of Great Wolf Lodge) among projects she aimed to fast-track, and, a year earlier in White Rock, chamber members heard Mayor Wayne Baldwin tout projects that included uptown reconstruction, new plans for Memorial Park and the parkade for just off Marine Drive – all planned for fruition this year.

Baldwin notably also spent about half his speech lauding individual “community builders,” people whom he credited with helping make the city what it is today.

Certainly, the description of “community builders” can be awarded to many business people, too, particularly those founders and owners of mom-and-pop shops that helped shape and finance our cities long before the presence of our first big-box store.

However, limiting the state-of-the-city addresses to business groups and their invitees is a tradition that should be reconsidered. Residents – i.e. voters – are also hugely invested in their cities and should be among the first to be privy to any mayor’s plans.

Now that we’re in an election year, with Hepner and Baldwin about to deliver their final states-of-the-city and new soon-to-be-selected mayors destined to lead our cities through the next four, perhaps these addresses should be more inclusive for all ratepayers to be able to attend, without having to pay a cover charge to actually be part of the discussion.

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