ZYTARUK: Hawthorne hijinks not funny at all

Strange stuff in ongoing battle for future of a Surrey park

So let it be written…

Hey, City of Surrey, what are you doing?

Reading through emails I’ve been getting from people who are against your plan to build two roads through Hawthorne Park, I’m left spellbound.

These Surrey residents, who are trying to protect their park as is, recently presented city council with a roughly 5,000-signature petition respectfully asking the City to reconsider its stance. Clearly, the city wants the project to proceed.

In response to this petition, the City gifted the campaigners with an “Alternative Approval Process” requiring them to gather by Sept. 22 no less than 30,372 signatures on special “electoral response forms” to compell council to puts the brakes to this project. That’s 10 per cent of Surrey’s electors. No small feat.

That challenge presented, funny stuff starts. Not funny “ha ha,” but funny, as in, what the heck?

Three days after that council meeting, an email tells me Surrey parks staff turned off a microphone being used by someone trying to “enlighten” a crowd of about 400 people about the Hawthorne issue, during a concert at Holland Park. This, I’m told, was met with cries of “Let her talk,” and “This is a democracy,” and “Turn on the mics,” and “We’re Surrey taxpayers.”

Hmm. After that, the mayor herself submitted a letter to the editor seeking to “dispel some of the misinformation that has been circulating.” A rare move, that.

READ ALSO: Save Hawthorne group seeks legal advice after Surrey’s ‘request’ to not hand out forms on civic property

READ ALSO: LETTER FROM SURREY MAYOR: Misinformation about Hawthorne Park road plans

READ ALSO: LETTER: I guess Surrey’s mayor forgot important points about Hawthorne Park

READ ALSO: Surrey’s Hawthorne Park petitioners want Surrey to extend window to collect signatures

And then the letter from the city clerk, “requesting” that the Hawthorne campaigners “not distribute any bulletins, forms, petitions or any other partisan information” at civic facilities or events, ironically, to “maintain the integrity of this legislated process.” Remarkable, presuming the very documents in question are those generated by the City itelf, accessible on the City website.

Speaking of remarkable, I spoke with then acting mayor Tom Gill about this, during which conversation during he made the remarkable admission, particularly for a politician elected to vote in the best interests of Surrey residents, that he’s signed petitions he perhaps shouldn’t have because the canvasser “would not let me be until I signed the petition that I signed it, my intent was not to sign it.”

What Goliath came rattling down from the hills, with his clipboard, to confront Mr. Gill?

Was it the Incredible Hulk, councillor?

Personally, I’ve never signed a petition I don’t believe in. But that’s just me.

To suggest people will bend to some kind of imagined intimidation, thus jeopardizing the integrity of the process, is nonsense, not to mention condescending.

Anyhow, the clerk withdrew the “request” after West Coast Environmental Law, representing the Hawthorne campaigners, informed her it was “not in keeping with your legal obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under the Community Charter.”

Shortly after that, I’m told that bylaw officers were photographing campaigners and their signs in Hawthorne Park. Really?

Maybe I’ve answered my own question.

From where I sit, City of Surrey, you’re looking bad.

That’s what you’re doing.

So let it be done.

tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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