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Langley voters squash Prop. 1 by a large margin | UPDATE

Langley voters have squashed Proposition 1 with a landslide defeat Tuesday.

Voters in the Village by the Sea were soundly rejecting Prop. 1 — a measure that would do away with the city's position of elected mayor — in the first vote tally announced by Island County Tuesday night.

Prop. 1 was falling to defeat with a 76 percent "no" vote.

The actual vote count: 346 against, 109 for Prop. 1.

Opponents of Prop. 1 were thrilled that the measure had failed.

"I'm really gratified," said Councilman Hal Seligson, a vocal critic of Prop. 1.

"I think the idea of having a mayor is important to people and that there's a real democratic spirit among most folks in Langley," he said.

Barbara Seitle, one of the prominent supporters of Prop. 1, declined to speak to a reporter Tuesday evening.

Dan Prewitt, another Prop. 1 supporter, accepted the voters' decision on the measure.

"I'm disappointed, but that's democracy," Prewitt said.

"I think they didn't take the time to look at the objective reasons as to why it would be advantageous," he added. "Unfortunately, they got focused on it being a sort of partisan proposition."

The proposal to change Langley's form of government from the "strong mayor" model, where citizens vote to choose their own mayor, to the council-manager form, where a professional city manager oversees the day-to-day operations of city hall, grew out of the battle over the Langley Passage housing development.

Prop. 1 made its way onto the ballot via a citizens' petition drive that was launched just days after the city council approved the 20-home project in the Edgecliff neighborhood. Many residents in the east end neighborhood were vehemently opposed to the project, and their signatures on petitions calling for an election to change Langley's form of government were instrumental in getting Prop. 1 on the ballot.

The question itself, to do away with the form of governance that has guided Langley since the town got its start in 1913, was highly divisive.

Robert Gilman's sole support of the proposal prompted his fellow council members to strip away his title of deputy mayor in June, and Gilman eventually resigned from the council.

Prop. 1 supporters said a change in government to the council-manager model would bring well-needed professional guidance to city hall, and would lead to lower legal bills and better working conditions for Langley employees.

Opponents of Prop. 1 said the vital checks and balances of an elected mayor, one who could veto council legislation, for example, would be lost if the council completely called the shots at city hall. Under the council-manager form of government, the council chooses one of its own to serve as a ceremonial head of the city.

The 2011 Primary Election is turning out to be a low-turnout affair.

Langley has 831 active voters, and just 455 votes were counted Tuesday.

County election officials estimated there would be 50 ballots left to count later this week.

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