Opinion

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"Freeland, Clinton need informationMembers of the Freeland Subarea Planning Committee are correct to be irritated with Island County government for not keeping them current with development ideas proposed for their community.No doubt, members of the Clinton Subara Planning Committee have similar concerns.Here we have two all-volunteer, county-appointed citizens panels charged with planning their communities' future, while members may not even know of some project in the works that could seriously impact that future.In Freeland, the main concern is a major gas station and associated commercial project planned for the corner of Fish Road and Highway 525. It will be situated in what is now the last open field in the south side of the highway, in what some might consider a wetland area. Such a development will certainly impact Freeland's future visually and environmentally, and yet it caught the town's planners by surprise. One commented that the project was in the works for nine months in Coupeville before the public was notified.The citizen planners in Freeland and Clinton can't do their jobs unless they're fully informed of projects from their earliest stages. Citizens can't be blamed if they suspect that the county commissioners prefer to keep us in the dark about development projects. They've dragged their heels in planning for years, thereby allowing residential subdivisions and commercial developments that might have be ruled out in an open, local planning process.We don't need to spend the time and money to write a new ordinance or review standards to let people know what's happening in their own communities. All we need is an order from the top, from Commissioners Mike Shelton and Mac McDowell, specifically, to tell people what's going on. (We leave out newly-elected Bill Thorn because he's not responsible for the planning delays).Furthermore, no subdivision, multi-family or commercial development within the Freeland and Clinton planning areas should be allowed to proceed before the appropriate planning committee is notified and given time to comment.Local control of planning is something we've needed for years, but the idea has always met with resistance from the powers that be in Coupeville. They've finally given us the committees, but they're kept in the dark. It's past time for those committees to get all the information they need to plan for the future.Administrator plan needs close studyLangley residents deserve a full airing of plans to hire a city administrator to take over every-day duties of running the city.The idea of a city manager has always made some sense, especially in a city with such a limited pool of possible mayors. These are complex times, and although Langley is a tiny city of just over 1,000 people, it must meet most of same state and federal regulations of cities many times its size. A part-time elected mayor with a token salary can't be expected to keep up with it all.Nevertheless, Langley citizens need a clear stating of the role of the new administrator and the chain of command. If he or she answers only to the mayor, could this imbue the mayor's office with too much power? Plans apparently are to have the mayor recommend the administrator, with the city council making the final hiring decision. But what if the council sees a better person in the pool of applicants? Apparently, as things now stand, their only choice is to accept or reject the mayor's single recommendation. And how about firing the administrator? Is this job left up to the mayor, or could the council do it on its own, over the mayor's objection? Hopefully the latter, because an administrator answerable mainly to the mayor could abuse his or her power.Other questions arise also. With an administrator, will we still need to pay $14,000 annually to the elected mayor? Plans are to start with a part-time administrator but we could get more hours immediately by adding the mayor's salary to the starting pay. With a good administrator, the mayor's job could diminish to simply broad oversight and ceremonial functions. The public should know exactly how the mayor plans to spend his time after the administrator is hired. Perhaps we're ready to return to the long tradition of an unpaid mayor in Langley.The council should publicly answer these and a myriad of other questions Langley citizens might have before adding an administrator to the staff. Citizens should urge them to do provide these answers, beginning at the next council meeting on Wednesday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall."

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