Barinder Rasode breaks ranks with Surrey First over ‘hostile’ environment, may run for mayor

Published: April 17, 2014
Surrey-politics-desi

Coun. Barinder Rasode is ditching Surrey First. In an email sent this morning, Rasode told the rest of the slate she would be sitting as an independent. Kevin Hill , Surrey Now

AMY REID
SURREY NOW

SURREY, B.C. — Coun. Barinder Rasode is leaving Surrey First and may have her eye on the mayor’s chair.

Rasode plans to run in the upcoming municipal election as an independent councillor, but said if Mayor Dianne Watts doesn’t run, she would “strongly consider” running for mayor.

The Surrey Now obtained a copy of the email Rasode sent to the rest of the Surrey First team Wednesday morning, announcing her departure from the slate.

In the email, Rasode claims the more questions she asks of council, the more “hostile” the relationship becomes.

She writes that she believes 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.”

Rasode says in the email there are three issues she finds troubling, “both personally and professionally: 1. The approach taken toward public safety and fighting crime. 2. Spending at City Hall. 3. Community consultation.”

While she values the work she’s accomplished together with Surrey First, Rasode writes she no longer believes that “independent voices are encouraged or respected within the team.”

She goes on to say that due to a series of events, “it has become obvious that I am not able to offer alternative viewpoints while remaining a member of Surrey First.”

“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 [sic], cut off from staff resources, removed as Chair of the Police Committee, and stopped receiving Council updates from the OIC [officer in charge] of the Surrey RCMP,” Rasode charges.

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She claims she has heard from the community that access to public information is 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 council or public consultation,” she writes. “The standard protocol around spending on major projects, such as the new City Hall, as well as taxpayer-funded travel is being ignored.”

Rasode ends her email by saying the decision was difficult on a personal level, but adds that her “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.”

Earlier this year, Watts insisted there was no rift between her and Rasode. While Rasode claimed the same, she said the two have “a difference in opinion on community public safety.”

The two politicians have made headlines recently.

After Julie Paskall’s murder outside Newton Arena, Rasode broke party lines and went public with comments that Surrey did not do enough in the neighbourhood.

Less than a week later, Watts said it was an accident that she liked at least four posts on Facebook that slammed Rasode, including one that called her a “coward.”

Then, following questions about why police committee meetings weren’t publicly available for the past two years, Watts referred comments back to Rasode, as she was chair at the time, until Watts took over as interim chair of the committee for a time.

In January 2013, media reports made note of a rift at city hall following the divide among Surrey council after the rejected South Surrey casino proposal, but Rasode and Watts both said that was not the case.

Rasode ran under the left-leaning Surrey Civic Coalition slate in the 2005 civic election. In the 2008 election, she joined Surrey First, and made history when she became the first South Asian woman elected to Surrey council.

Full text of Barinder Rasode’s email to Surrey First:

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

Read more Surrey news at thenownewspaper.com

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