Surrey City Councillor leaves Dianne Watts' civic party, claims hostility from council

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Barinder Rasode Surrey

Surrey City Councillor Barinder Rasode has left Mayor Dianne Watts’ Surrey First civic party due to an apparent hostile relationship with her colleagues in council.

She sent her letter to members of Surrey Council this morning, highlighting her issues with the city’s approach on public safety and crime, spending and public consultation.

Tensions rose when she was both privately and publicly criticized for the need to fight crime, hire more police officers, and introduce additional safety measures in the Newton area following the murder of hockey mom Julie Paskall in December 2013.

Both Rasode and Watts even found themselves in the middle of a Facebook post controversy where the Mayor apparently “liked” a post that harshly slammed the City Councillor.

The Surrey Now reports that Barinder’s latest move may also have to do with an ambition to fill the Mayor’s chair in the upcoming November 2013 election. Until then, she will retain her seat on City Council as an independent.

Here is the full email Rasode sent to Surrey Councillors this morning:

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.

Kind Regards,

Barinder

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