Councillor Barinder Rasode ditches Surrey First, saying independent voices no longer encouraged or respected

Barinder Rasode SURREY Councillor Barinder Rasode has quit Surrey First, saying that independent voices are no longer encouraged or respected.

The VOICE came to know on Tuesday night that Rasode was to make this announcement, but held back the story on her request.

In a letter to fellow councilors she wrote: “I joined Surrey First in 2008 because it was a coalition of independent voices. I value the work that we have accomplished together, and there are many new initiatives and community infrastructure projects which serve as a legacy of our teamwork and collaboration.

“But, I no longer believe that independent voices are encouraged or respected within the team. My job as an elected City Councillor is to work on behalf of the residents and businesses in Surrey, and that includes raising issues the community brings forward, and having constructive discussions about how to improve our city.

“I believe that dialogue and debate is a healthy and critical part of democracy. But, due to a series of events that have occurred, it has become obvious that I am not able to offer alternative viewpoints while remaining a member of Surrey First.

“Currently, there is a systematic failure of process at City Hall, and in order to adequately address this issue, I have decided to sit as an Independent on Council.

“Three issues are particularly troubling for me both personally and professionally:

“1. The approach taken toward public safety and fighting crime.

“2. Spending at City Hall

“3. Community consultation

“Following the tragic death of Julie Paskall, I spoke out about the need to fulfill the commitment in our crime reduction strategy to hire more police officers, and implement additional safety measures in Newton and around our facilities. In the weeks following, I was criticized by Council both privately and publically, cut off from staff resources, removed as Chair of the Police Committee, and stopped receiving Council updates from the OIC of the Surrey RCMP.

“I have overwhelmingly heard from the community that access to public information is now being restricted, including Freedom of Information requests being ignored. Major decisions, such as contracting-out community policing services, are being made behind closed doors and without any public consultation.

“The standard protocol around spending on major projects, such as the new City Hall, as well as taxpayer-funded travel is being ignored.

“The more questions I ask Council, the more hostile the relationship becomes.

“This decision was very difficult for me on a personal level. However, my first responsibility is to serve the people of Surrey, and I believe that I can be more effective as an Independent. Our city will be strengthened through open dialogue, as well as greater transparency and accountability at City Hall.

“I look forward to continuing to work with you and staff on the many committees we serve on, both at the City and the regional level.”

FOR more on Rasodes’s clash with Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, read The VOICE article “Why is Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts so scared of Councillor Barinder Rasode?”

Also read “So what’s up in Surrey?” in the column “BY THE WAY … WITH RATTAN” in this issue.

(Photo by Chandra Bodalia)