SURREY - Mayor Dianne Watts has a sweet tooth for online broadcasting.
The civic politician is so pleased with how her first-ever "Talk Surrey with Mayor Watts" live stream question and answer show went on Wednesday afternoon, she's planning to make it a regular thing.
"It feels like a one-on-one with people in a way that's constructive," she said.
The next session will likely be in the fall, she said after her live hour on the city's website.
"We'll have a chat with staff. The minimum twice a year, but we'll look at making it quarterly."
Surrey residents were invited to post questions via email, Twitter and Facebook. Watt's communications assistant Tara Foslien read the questions to her, and she responded, albeit in a raspy voice.
"I have a bit of laryngitis," Watts said at the outset.
All told, she received 15 questions via email. Fourty-four questions were submitted via Twitter during the hour (noon to 1 p.m.) and by Facebook, 14 questions were submitted during the show, 12 before, and two after it was over.
"The online conversation is a great way for us to improve dialogue, communication and transparency," Watts said. "The session is a follow-up to the successful town hall meetings that were held this spring and it's an opportunity to engage the public in a proactive way.
Watts fielded questions about light rail transit, neighbourhood concept plans, tree conservation, bridge tolling, a casino for South Surrey, the Agricultural Land Reserve, farmers markets, parking issues, secondary suites, taxes, public art and food carts, to name some issues.
One resident asked council to do something about neighbourhoods becoming distinct racial enclaves.
We have to put in policies where we are not segregating people," Watts said. On bridge tolls, the mayor said the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges shouldn't be tolled unless the Sea-to-Sky Highway is tolled, too. She said that the City is concerned about the flow of traffic expected to pass through North Surrey to the Pattullo Bridge, to avoid paying the Port Mann toll.
"We will be monitoring that," she said, adding that the 75-year-old Pattullo Bridge can't accommodate that kind of traffic. "It's a very real concern to us," she said.
Another participant asked Watts what the City is doing to encourage 20-somethings to stay here rather than move to Vancouver.
She replied that Surrey needs to offer more jobs and opportunities to start up new businesses.
"We want to keep our young people here."
As far as plans for a casino in South Surrey, Watts said, the City is seeking feedback from residents.
"We'll see how that unfolds." It's not just a casino, she said, but also a hotel and conference centre.
She also said the city is looking at how it can encourage developers to incorporate more trees into their projects and that council does not support land coming out of the ALR.