Re: City’s new waterfront task force on ice, Feb. 24.
White Rock council’s Feb. 6 vote to “approve in principle” – but not actually establish – a “Marine Drive business task force” (City to zero in on waterfront businesses, Feb. 10) came across as little more than disingenuous, knee-jerk political posturing, intended to deflect criticisms of council members for their many years of neglect and disinterest, until the news media moved on to another subject.
The White Rock mayor’s effective kiboshing of the MDBTF proposal Feb. 20 confirms this view.
Rather than cancelling the proposal entirely, the mayor should have directed that an existing city committee/task force – such as the Memorial Park committee established last July – be re-purposed and renamed, and tasked with establishing the causes of Marine Drive’s inhospitable business environment, and recommending remedial actions.
The Memorial Park committee’s current – and only – task/purpose, is to oversee and direct the currently ongoing “Memorial Park upgrade project.”
Few, if any, of White Rock’s business owners have ever lobbied council or requested that the city “upgrade” Memorial Park. Despite this, the committee is overseeing the expenditure of millions of dollars of public monies “upgrading” what is, in reality, little more than a 40-by-20-metre patch of grass on West Beach – and while doing this, eliminating nearly three dozen parking stalls directly in front of struggling West Beach businesses.
Planned expenditures on this project skyrocketed from an initial $1 million to more than $5 million in less than four months. Comparative ‘nickels and dimes,’ if being undertaken by a large city such as neighbouring Surrey with an annual budget approaching $1 billion, but mega-project bucks for a small city the size of White Rock, with a typical annual budget of only $32 to $34 million.
The Memorial Park committee – and all members of council – should expeditiously deliberate if spending over $5 million on an “upgrade” is an appropriate use of taxpayers’ monies, especially as this comparatively enormous expenditure is for a purpose that is entirely isolated from a comprehensive waterfront business environment plan.
Unfortunately, no such “plan” has ever existed in the 60-year life of the city. Before the committee makes any further decisions regarding upgrading Memorial Park, it should develop – and the city should adopt – a comprehensive waterfront business environment plan.
Roderick V. Louis, White Rock