Survey says: Councilman Hal Seligson offers views on Langley issues

Councilman Hal Seligson - Brian Kelly / Record file
Councilman Hal Seligson
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Record file

The Record is surveying candidates for the city council in the 2011 election.

Councilman Hal Seligson responds to the Record's candidate survey with his take on economic development, the mayor's salary, ethics and more.


Hal Seligson Bio

Incumbent. Appointed to city council in December 2010. Seeking election to Position 2 (two-year unexpired term).

Age: 64

Education: BA in government/philosophy, Hunter College.

Occupation: Retired senior administrator at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City.

Volunteer work: Member/chairman of Langley Planning Advisory Board; member of the integration committee for the City of Langley Comprehensive Plan update; Good Cheer Food Bank; Langley Community Club, Friends of the Langley Library; Hearts & Hammers.

Survey questions

What specific ideas do you have for improving Langley's economy?

"It’s no secret: economic diversification is crucial. I see opportunities for Langley’s government and its chamber of commerce to partner with the county, the Port of South Whidbey, the Economic Development Council and other public and private organizations to actively seek new opportunities for economic expansion.

I propose creation of non-polluting light industrial zones within the city and its Urban Growth Area to provide incentive to forward-thinking practical people who will create jobs and actually make things that are useful in our 21st century economy.

One immediate step to helping growth of new businesses in Langley would be elimination of the 'in lieu-of-on-site-parking fees' now charged to new businesses that do not have land on which to provide parking.

We need to actively reach-out to entrepreneurs and seek reasonable accommodations of mutual benefit -- through tax incentives and other means. We need to be open to innovative ideas from people in business."

Should decisions of Langley's hearing examiner be subject to appeal to the city council?

"No. I am certain that the course we have recommended – eliminating the council from this quaisi-judicial process is the correct choice. Leave legal matters in the capable hands of experienced legal experts. Let the council concentrate on making policy and creating beneficial legislation."

Unless the current salary structure for the mayor is changed, the next elected mayor in Langley will be paid an annual salary of $53,000, which cannot be lowered during the mayor's four-year term.

Should the city council revisit the issue of the mayor's salary?

"No. Although I did not vote for the current (or future) salary of the mayor, I don’t think it would be beneficial to revisit the question now. Larry Kwarsick, our next elected-mayor-to-be, is exploring lawful and reasonable means to accept a lower salary than the one voted for by a majority of the existing council. I trust that he (as did Mayor Colburn before him) will work out an appropriate legal arrangement to be of service."

How much should the mayor be paid annually?

"As I sought to negotiate with the council, I believe an annual salary of approximately $35,000 plus reasonable benefits is appropriate for a mayor of Langley. If a mayor does his job, and chooses to accept less compensation in the spirit of community service, that’s just fine."

How many hours a week do you expect to devote your work on the council?

"If my recent experience is a guide, I expect to devote about 20 hours per week to my work on the council -- some weeks more, some a bit less. It is definitely not a hobby or a responsibility to be entered into lightly."

Langley's Parks and Open Space Commission has pushed for a network of walking trails through Langley, and there has also been support for biking lanes in the village. Which should be a greater priority for the city — installing sidewalks in neighborhoods that currently lack sidewalks, or establishing new walking trails and bike lanes?

"I favor improving upon and expanding our multifaceted system of walking opportunities – both 'urban' and 'rural.' Sidewalks are expensive to install and maintain, and are appropriately dedicated to the downtown core and routes connecting to it. Considering Langley’s light traffic volume and low vehicular speed limits, that’s a sensible approach – at least for now.

I’m not so sure dedicated bike lanes are necessary here – again due to Langley’s vehicular traffic speed and volume. I’d rather spend some of that sidewalk and bike lane money on appropriately cutting-back view-obscuring trees and shrubs that limit the enjoyment of some of our existing streets and walkways."

During the council's review of the 2011 budget, one council member said the city should consider contracting out for police services. Should Langley contract with Island County to provide police services, and decommission its police department?

"The issue of contracting out for police services is not new, and not limited to Langley. In many ways it has less to do with our budget than in our perception of who we are as a community. Do we want to remain an independent city or piece-by-piece become an unincorporated creature of Island County. I’d prefer we grow responsibly as a city and responsibly remain in control of our own law enforcement. The cost either way has been demonstrated as a bit of a wash."

Attendance at council meetings has been an issue over the past year. How many council meetings do you think you will not attend in person?

"I have yet to miss a council meeting in the eight months or so I’ve served. I expect that I’ll miss a meeting now and then for one good reason or another. I’m fortunate that I don’t have work commitments out-of-town."

Should building heights be increased where water views will not be impacted?

"Water views are only one reason to consider the heights of buildings. Clearly, concerns such as appropriate scale relative to the surrounding built- and natural-environment must be considered. I can envision instances wherein buildings taller than 35 feet would be appropriate in Langley, especially if the economies of sharing land and other infrastructure costs would contribute to more affordable housing and/or innovative mixed-use structures."

Does the city need an ethics ordinance/policy that covers elected/appointed city officials?

"Yes! I have introduced this matter as a high-priority topic for the council to deliberate on in the coming months. Open government based upon a robust foundation of enforceable ethical codes can only improve people’s trust in their political system. I don’t think Langley’s leaders lack ethics, but a three-quarter-page Code of Ethical Conduct such as we have now just doesn’t measure up in today’s world."

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