The third annual State of Newton address focused on how partnerships in the community can help work through “struggles,” according to the local business improvement association’s executive director.
The event included keynote speakers Surrey councillors Brenda Locke and Jack Hundial, who both spoke on behalf of Mayor Doug McCallum while he’s at UBCM; Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman; Surrey RCMP Staff Sergeant Winston Shorey; Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains; and Value Property Group president Arnold Silber.
According to the State of Newton document, which shows Newton as the most populous town centre, states the BIA was advocating for things such as an annual homeless count, an increase in place-making initiatives and an events centre for an arena, convention and hotel.
When talking about the “next vision” of Newton, BIA executive director Philip Aguirre said he sometimes struggles.
“I realized there’s lots of work to be done, always, every day there’s more work to be done. It reminds me of the negativity that we’ve had in Newton in the past several years. The ongoing violence in the low-level gang warfare we’ve had, the stories that have been prevalent in the media.”
Aguirre, who is also the owner of the Old Surrey Restaurant on 72nd Avenue, said it’s a struggle “daily” to keep a small business going.
“It’s hard work grinding it out every day, being the first one in and the last one out, being responsible,” said Aguirre, adding that he met with a lot of community advocates Thursday at the event who also echoed their struggles.
“That’s what today is. That’s what State of Newton is, is that we’re not alone. We’re not working alone, we’re facing that adversity, those troubles, that hard work every day, together. We do that in partnership,” said Aguirre.
He said the BIA help put on events “to show the community that there is a future that they want to be a part of, that there’s vibrancy.”
“I think coming together is really the point of State of Newton. I think there’s always more that we can do,” said Aguirre, adding that he’s “always optimistic” for the community of Newton.
Aguirre said the community needs to “hammer down” to the three levels of government, “especially” at the municipal level, that “Newton matters,” which was one of the themes of the event.
“Surrey has five major events, none of those are in Newton. So we struggle to keep relevant, we struggle to gain the point of Newton matters.”
With that, Aguirre highlighted a new event for 2020 – car-free day on 137th Street “to showcase that transportation needs to be the focus in a building-dense community, removing the car from the equation.”
The 2018 State of Newton address focused on light rail, which was supposed to have travel through Newton.
Aguirre said he also struggles with what he calls a “failure” to not be able to bring rapid transit to the town centre.
“I try not to own that, but it was huge development, there was huge potential for the town centre, huge opportunity to revitalize the area.”
He said Newton can’t just have more buses.
“There is 149,000 people that live in Newton. A community that size demands services for them, for their small businesses, for their children, for their struggles to get to work everyday.”