Adams says he'll vote no on Langley's Prop. 1

LANGLEY — Robin Adams, a candidate for the Langley City Council and one of the petitioners who put the change-of-government measure, Proposition 1, on the Primary Election ballot, said he will vote against the proposal.

Adams made the announcement after the close of a public meeting on Prop. 1 Thursday night held by supporters of the measure at Langley United Methodist Church. The panel discussion drew a crowd of roughly three dozen, as well as a who's who of those on the August ballot: candidates Hal Seligson, Jonathon Moses, Kathleen Waters and Jim Sundberg.

After the meeting, Adams sounded a familiar refrain, one heard from earlier experts who have been brought to Langley to speak on the different ways of running city hall since such talk started percolating this spring.

"It's about the people," Adams said.

The governance model used at city hall works only as well as the people — elected, appointed or employed — make it work. That makes either model, the one with an elected mayor, or the one without, sink or soar.

Prop. 1, if approved, would eliminate the position of an elected mayor and put a professional manager in charge of the day-to-day operations of city hall. Supporters have said the move is needed in an increasingly complex and challenging world, while opponents have said it would mean fewer checks and balances in local government, as well as a costly, unnecessary expense given the highly trained crew that's already running the city.

Thursday's forum was just the second meeting on the topic, and likely the last, since a stealthy group of Langley residents propelled the proposition onto the ballot via a low-key signature drive. Ballots for the Primary Election will be mailed Monday, and Election Day is Aug. 16.

Adams is running for Position 3 on the council, and was the only council candidate of seven to not yet weigh in on Prop. 1. His opponents, Waters and Sundberg, have been knee-deep in opposition to Prop. 1; Waters helped organize a town meeting of those opposed to Prop. 1, while Sundberg helped write the "vote no" message on the proposition for the county voter's guide.

Others running for office have also said they will vote against Prop. 1, including mayoral candidate Larry Kwarsick. Moses, a candidate for Position 4 on the city council, has been the sole voice of support for the proposition.

After Thursday's meeting, Adams said he had not heard anything that made him want to vote for Prop. 1, and gave a prepared statement on his position.

In the statement, he said he had "seriously considered" voting for Prop. 1. Adams said the city could be doing many things better, and gave a list of examples.

The council made an "unfortunate" decision on giving the mayor an annual salary of $53,000, he said, and Adams indicated he preferred a compensation arrangement much like the one adopted a few years ago by the council, where the mayor is given a base salary, with the ability to ask for full-time compensation after the mayor submits a plan of administration to the council.

Adams said he would have put the base pay at $24,000, with a total of $100,000 devoted to the mayor's administration costs.

Other problem areas, Adams said, included the lack of action on changes to the city's zoning regulations, the cost of the proposed park-and-ride lot at the Langley Christian Missionary Alliance Church, and the work of the city attorney on the controversial Langley Passage housing project.

"The city attorney was recently reappointed without a competitive bid despite the fact that he handled the Langley Passage matter so poorly that he had to be replaced by another attorney and despite the fact that his advice to the mayor relating to employee management has led to at least two threatened lawsuits," Adams said.

Having a city manager may not have changed things, he added, but things don't end there.

"The council shares responsibility with the mayor if these processes are not working as they should."

Adams said he wasn't sure the mayor-to-manager switch would save money or improve the work of city hall, so he would vote no on Prop. 1.

"I am simply not convinced that a change will either reduce the cost of administration or improve its quality.

"I like the doctrine of the separation of powers because it creates a system of checks and balances that is absent when the executive and legislative branches of government are combined as they are in Island County, for example.

"If I have a complaint and cannot get traction from council members, I can go to the mayor and vice versa."


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