Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts hosts a meeting of civic leaders committed to tackling gang violence. Vancouver's Mayor was a no show. Photo: Vancouver Sun
Popular Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts revealed a number of surprises today in her 4th Annual State of the City address delivered to a business crowd earlier today. Topping the list is the creation of a new Economic Investment Zone which will create tax free zones for new business developments in excess of $10 million.
High density residential development applications in the City Centre valued at more than $50 million will receive a 50% reduction in building permit fees, as well as the opportunity to defer development cost charges payments to later in the building process.
By focusing on the future of Surrey's economy, Watts is clearly setting herself apart from Vancouver's Mayor who seems preoccupied with making pronouncements regarding innovative job creation initiatives such as new vegetable gardens on the front lawn of city hall and setting up backyard chicken farms.
Watts also announced the creation of a new Advisory Committee on Investment and Job Creation along with a new business retention and expansion program. The program is aimed at working with local businesses to determine what the City can do to make them more competitive.
When it comes to reducing red tape at City Hall, the Mayor announced she will conduct a major streamlining effort over the coming year.
Regarding the issue of crime, Watts got a resounding round of applause from the business crowd when she committed to taking a tough stand on fighting crime. Although she remains opposed to a regional police force, Watts laid out a number of changes she would like made to the justice system. They include:
- simplified disclosure requirements, the paperwork that’s “choking the system” and slowing down the ability to get at criminals;
- an end to “credit-for-time-served”, a system that does nothing more than shorten jail times for criminals;
- better coordination of gang prevention and education programs for children and their families, otherwise “gang recruitment” will continue to enlist children and youth;
- no bail or plea bargaining for firearms charges, with minimum mandatory sentences for illegal possession of a firearm;
- and more police on the streets, particularly when a single shooting ties up “30 or 40 officers” in the investigation.
It will be interesting to see what Mayor Robertson chooses as his priorities for his first State of the City address. Should Vancouverites expect the legalization of backyard sheep as a means of creating new jobs? I somehow doubt Robertson will be able to match Watts' vision when it comes to stimulating his local economy.