Langley Inside and Out
All about the City of Langley from The Record and other sources
On Tues. Feb. 19, 2013 Langley City Council will appoint an interim Mayor who will serve from that date till Dec. 31, 2013 when the newly elected Mayor takes over. Please check the Record for time and meeting place. This is a very difficult and important decision. We have five qualified candidates who are applying: Hal Seligson who is currently on the Council, Bruce Allen who is currently on the Council, Thomas Gill who is the current PAB Chair, Ed Anderson is a former City Council member and Fred McCarthy who was formerly So. Whidbey School District’s Superintendent. We are incredibly lucky to have such qualified citizens who are interested in this opportunity to serve Langley. Each of their applications will be available for viewing at City Hall at the front desk by next Monday.
This is an open invitation to any Langley citizen or person who cares about our town to weigh in by letting me know what your views are on the selection of an interim mayor. Tell me what you think are the most pressing issues facing Langley right now, what kind of Mayor you think our town needs, what characteristics you think are important in a Mayor and of course who of the candidates you think would do the best job. I would very much appreciate your input.
There will literally be 3 people left on the Council who will be making this decision. I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and find out what you are thinking. You can call me anytime at 221-8566 or 360-547-3352 to make an appointment or stop me on the street or wherever and have a little chat. This is one of the most important decisions the Council has to make this year and I for one do not want to do this in a vacuum. I cannot speak for the other Council members, Doug Allderdice, Jim Sundberg but they may also welcome your input. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, after all I am YOUR representative and want to do what you all think is best for Langley. Thanks, Rene Neff
Its my opinion the City Council has had mixed legal messages in regard to whether Larry Kwarsick could remain as mayor. It has been very difficult to know how to navigate though this mess. I support the laws of WA State both as a citizen and as a City Council Member. Since I swore to uphold the laws of our town and the state of WA I must also support and uphold the judgments handed down by Greg Banks and Judge Churchill of Island County. I appreciate Larry’s positive impact on the city but at this time I believe it would be best for the City and for Larry and his family if he resigned as Mayor.
I want to go on record as supporting Jeff Arrango for reporting this transgression because if he had not he would have been complicit in the action and held liable as well. Jeff’s ethical behavior in reporting this to the council was admirable and brave. Once Larry admitted to Jeff he had taken an improper action Jeff did what he was legally supposed to. It has not been easy for him either. I apologize to Jeff for the suffering he has endured these 8 months. He has been criticized by some for his action. It has been hard to be a “whistle blower” on a such a popular and productive mayor. I hope the community, staff and council can all work together to heal the “wounds” everyone feels around this issue.
Last Tues. I read a statement of support for Larry at the City Council meeting. I was very emotional and I was hoping in my heart of hearts there was some way to salvage the situation. I have been a close friend to Larry and his family for over 30 years and our kids grew up together. I have had great respect for Larry working with him this year on the council. However I cannot condone his actions and am now very worried about how this will all play out for our town. Once again Langley is torn apart by controversy and taking sides on this issue. I am afraid I have contributed to this pain by supporting Larry at the Tues. meeting. If people were offended by what I read, or feel I acted unethically I apologize to them. I spoke from my heart that evening but perhaps I should have spoken as a City Council member.
I leave today for a vacation and will not return till Jan. 8. I felt compelled to make a statement even though I have no idea what the outcome of these events will be. My heart goes out to the town, to the staff who have endured so much stress over the last few years and to the Kwarsick family. Wishing our community peace in the new year.
Tis the season to be thankful which may explain the reason I woke up this morning composing a thank you letter to Langley. This community has so much to be thankful for and I have had the good fortune to witness some of the highlights in the last few years.
Let me start with the City of Langley. Being a City Council representative during two previous administrations and now the first year of a third I have had a unique opportunity to see our local government in action. The two previous administrations did an excellent job hiring a dynamite staff! The former Mayors, City Councils and staff have stewarded the city through hard times and although we downsized our staff we maintained a budget that never went in the red. Consequently we are currently in a good place financially and have a very strong and competent staff to build upon.
Enter Mayor Kwarsick. Sitting at the council meeting last night I was struck by what an amazing job he has done in his first year in office. Yes there have been bumps along the way, but as we emerge from 2012 our City is poised to accomplish some amazing feats! The budget that the Council, staff and Mayor put together is truly a synergetic effort that all contributed to. Kwarsick has done an excellent job as a part time mayor empowering our staff to take leadership roles in various ways.
Jeff Arrango, our Director of Community Planning, led an impressive effort that gathered community input and support for a new Second Street design. Since the roadway needed to be rebuilt it was a perfect opportunity to ask our community how we could improve the street. The grant gave us access to some of the best street planning advisors in the N.W. who helped the community develop a strong and realistic design.
Challis Stringer is our Public Works Director but is also functioning as the Mayor’s Assistant since Kwarsick delegates many duties to her. At first I was skeptical of this arrangement I have to admit, worrying that it would put too much pressure on her and other staff members. But last night at our Council meeting as I witnessed the money from grants pouring into our city to do public works projects, I realized that Larry was a master mentor and Ms. Stringer has risen to the occasion in a very professional way. After seeing the smile on Challis’ face when I congratulated her upon receiving several state and federal grants my skepticism vanished.
The 2013 budget is very aggressive and most of the money for projects that are included in it will need to come in the form of grants from agencies outside the City. Thanks so Challis’ efforts we have already been awarded some very competitive grants that will help us move forward on our Second Street Design project! We also have several more grants out there with a very good chance of being funded that will help us improve several of the streets that are in need of repair and are on our priority list.
Mayor Kwarsick also has pulled together some very important coalitions that will ultimately really help our community. He’s leading the effort to get Langley, the Port of So. Whidbey, the City of Mulkilteo and Sound Transit, working together on a parking facility at the Mulkilteo ferry. Pooling money, grants, expertise and ideas the group is working on a parking plan that could have a big impact on Langley’s future. Larry is working with the County and the Fair Grounds’ Board to come up with a plan for an improved RV Park at the Fair Grounds. This idea not only will benefit the Fair’s bottom line, it will bring tourists year round to Langley who will undoubtedly shop and eat downtown. Kwarsick has also been courting some businesses that would be a good fit for Langley and he’s been working on a plan for affordable housing, with the ultimate goal of attracting a younger demographic to our town.
So three cheers to the City of Langley! It is doing well and good things are happening because of it!
Another wonderful thing I have been honored to witness is the development of a new non-profit organization called the Langley Main Street Association (LMSA). It has taken two years, a ton of work and some very persistent and hard working volunteers to pull it off but we are now officially a Main Street Association registered with the State of WA. This designation allows LMSA to receive B&O taxes from any business in the area that would like to donate to us. This is fundamentally such a great thing because LMSA is totally devoted to improving the downtown core by; encouraging businesses, new and old, improving the town’s looks or design, capitalizing and educating the public on its history, and generally working toward a strong economic future for downtown Langley.
The City of Langley supported, encouraged and garnered support for Main Street through all of the last two administrations and has now become one of the first contributors to LMSA by donating its Utility Tax. This money usually goes to the state and is redistributed, but instead it will now come to LMSA, benefitting our local economy directly. In this way the City is able to help our downtown core, empowering volunteers who will take a bit of a load off the City by helping with beautification, which could potentially benefit the City in future tax revenue as Langley improves economically. Those beautiful daffodils that greet us in the spring, the pretty flower pots, garden beds and hanging baskets will all be LMSA efforts to make the town look great and put a smile on folks when they come into Langley. An inviting town encourages people to come back! As we slip into 2013 we can all look forward to learning about the history of this place as LMSA spearheads Langley’s Centennial year long Celebrations!
So, I just want to give a shout out to Langley! Good things are happening here, new businesses such as our budding Wine Tasting industry is taking off, old businesses are hanging in there and continue to garner community support as residents shop local, and there is a renewed energy in town. It has been said sometimes people come out of hard times better for it. In this case our community is poised to have good things happen in Langley thanks to the people who care about our town and give of their time, energy, creativity and heart. GO LANGLEY!!
I would like to clear up a few misconceptions that seem to be swirling around in regard to the City of Langley. The first one involves Mo’s Pub. As a City Council Member and business owner in Langley, I can tell you the City of Langley is not anti-business nor do we want to shut down one of the most successful businesses in town.
Langley has constituents with different needs and desires. The City Council recently passed a temporary ordinance that is designed to clarify some of our code around FUTURE businesses that abut private residences in Langley. Our code was not very specific in that area and we wanted to add some specificity so that the tensions we have been dealing with around Mo’s Pub do not happen again.
The temporary ordinance does NOT impact Mo’s as it is today, it is totally focused on any new business that might want to start up next door to a residential district OR a current business that may want to expand or remodel in the future. This temporary ordinance DOES NOT have the intention or power to close Mo’s Pub or any other business operating in Langley today, nor can the City reduce the hours of operation now in place. We do not have the desire to impose hardships on our businesses. The ordinance is a Conditional Use ordinance designed to protect residential neighborhoods from potentially incompatible land uses in the future. This ordinance is temporary because the Planning Advisory Board is working on a permanent ordinance. The PAB’s final ordinance will NOT impact Mo’s Pub or any other business as it is today.
As a City Council Member I represent the citizens of Langley as well as the interests of businesses and we try to ensure that both constituents’ rights are protected. One of the rumors I have heard states that because one resident complained the City is reexamining our codes. This is totally not true. There are several residents that live near Mo’s Pub and we have received complaints from many of them about disturbances they have experienced. Neighbors report their sleep is often interrupted at night, some are fighting cancer and continually get woken up throughout the evening making it difficult to heal, people hear loud talking in the street at all hours of the night as patrons walk to their cars, cars start up their engines all night till 2:00 AM, and often neighbors hear loud music late into the evening. These problems make tensions flare and distress our community. We are trying to help alleviate some of the stress that was inadvertently caused when the City issued the permit to remodel the building that is now Mo’s Pub. These problems were not anticipated and we did not have a strong code in place to protect against incompatible land uses. City officials have been meeting with residents and the owners of the Pub to try to address some of these concerns.
One concern expressed was that parking along 2nd Street posed a safety hazard. 2nd Street has no sidewalks and pedestrians must walk out into the lane of traffic because there is no shoulder since cars are parked all the way up the hill. Cars coming over the hill down 2nd often do not see pedestrians until they are on top of them. Since many residents have bedrooms facing the street, the noise from parking on the street was a huge problem. Langley has lots of parking in the downtown core very close to the Pub. Dealing with parking along 2nd seemed like an area we could tackle that could alleviate some of the stress. The City asked the residents if they would be OK with residential parking only on 2nd St. in the evening hours. The overwhelming majority of residents said yes and so the City has made that change.
Another problem has been the gravel shoulder along the North side of 2nd Street. As more cars parked there the area eroded and gravel was washing down the steep street into the catch basin clogging up the storm drain. Public Works was concerned about potential flooding. In order to prevent further erosion P W planting grass seed and put up barricades to keep cars off that area until we could get it paved. Luckily the North side of 2nd Street was paved this last week. Public Works will further secure that area, clean out the storm drain and be ready for the rainy season.
Finally, many have expressed irritation over the recent street paving and sidewalk replacement. We are a small city and although we have a terrific Public Works staff, we cannot do our own street repairs. We have to contract that work out to the County and independent contractors. Consequently we are at the mercy of their schedules. No one in the City scheduled the street repairs for Labor Day weekend. The contractor and the County had time that week to do the overlay so that’s when it got done.
Our street repairs are paid for out of our Street Fund from City taxes and grants. We have a prioritized list of needed repairs. Although you may not have noticed the degradation on the sections of Anthes and Camano, they were on our list as a #1 priority. If we do not overlay pavement that is starting to decay the problems get worse and the cost increases. By overlaying areas we extend the life of the street for many years before the street needs to be dug up for a make over.
As part of the grants to do this work, we must ensure our walkways are ADA compatible to the current standards. Also, the concrete that connects with the pavement must be poured first so that things meet up just right. That is why the street corners were torn up. The concrete contractor ran out of supplies so they were unable to finish the job before the weekend. My business is on that corner and believe me I wished it had been a different week too, but that was not something the City could control.
Langley is a small City yet we must meet all the state and federal laws and regulations, which sometimes is a heavy burden on us little towns. Please know that Langley’s City Staff do the very best job possible to make our town run smoothly but that sometimes things are not always under their control. We are so lucky to have these employees who look after this special town with an abundance of care and consideration for its citizens, businesses and visitors. Sometimes it seems like we only talk to them when we have something to complain about… Next time you see one of those hard working Public Works employees give them a shout out for taking such good care of Langley!!
Hope this information helps explain some of the things you may have heard or read about. Please do not hesitate to contact or stop on the street any of the City staff, Mayor or Council Members and ask questions. If we don’t know the answers we will find out and get back to you. We are truly here to serve the needs of everyone in our community.
Respectfully Submitted by Rene Neff
In spite of the heavy snowfall, the Langley City Council, Mayor, and city staff have been busy over the past month. Here is a summary of actions relating to access and housing.
First, a big “shout out of thanks” to Director Challis Stringer and the Public Works staff for the excellent job of snow clearing and road sanding last week. Two trucks and many long hours kept most of Langley’s roads quite passable during 7-8 inches of snow and subsequent icing.
Second, in the spirit of expanding alternatives, the City has now reviewed and adopted an enabling ordinance for electric vehicle charging stations and is considering an ordinance regulating electric powered “golf carts” on the streets of Langley. Charging stations for electric cars are now more than welcome in Langley, if any business would like to be the first to provide such.
Electric golf carts, defined as 4-wheeled electric vehicles limited to 20 miles per hour, must be equipped with headlights, tail and brake lights, seat belts and a “red safety flag . . . which extends 5 feet above the surface of the street.” At a public hearing yesterday on the proposed ordinance, the emphasis was jointly upon safety and practicality. One or two such vehicles could provide convenient access between Langley Marina and several points around downtown.
Finally, in a move to have the first “funicular” installation around Puget Sound, the City Council approved the full exploration of a “horizontal elevator” connection between Cascade Ave and the Langley Marina. Citing the benefits of linkage to more parking, handicapped access, and usefulness to boaters and tourists alike, Director of Planning Jeff Arango presented to City Council and the public some initial design sketches for this unique mode of transportation.
On the affordable housing front, the City of Langley has made the building of accessory dwelling units more attractive, by expanding the maximum size from 800 sq. ft. to 1000 sq. ft. and relaxing some of the height and setback limitations. The Planning Department and the Planning Advisory Board are also looking at additional ways to make continued infill of housing in Langley financially more attractive.
Even more dramatic topics relating to land use and access will be on next month’s Council Agenda: a review of the Shoreline Master Plan and selection of design consultants to begin planning and redesign efforts focused on 2nd Street. For details and to make comments on these, be sure to log onto Jeff Arango’s new blog: http://designLangley.org
Ahh, its 2012! A New Year, and in Langley, a new beginning of sorts. Before I can start to think about the future though, I would like to reflect about the past. It continues to be an honor for me to serve on the Langley City Council especially because of the highly capable people I have had the privilege to work with these last 4 years. I hope to carry the banner of institutional knowledge forward for the next two years left on my term.
Each administration comes with dreams and aspirations and Paul Samuelson’s term was no different. In my mind Paul’s biggest accomplishments centered on the ability to mobilize people to get involved and volunteer. Paul set up commissions and formed citizen committees that empowered people to be a part of the community.
The first thing Paul jumped into was bringing together a coalition of people that lobbied Whidbey General Hospital to keep the Langley Clinic operating, which bought us another year.
The Parks and Open Space Commission, mentored by Kathleen Landel the mayor’s assistant, did outstanding work surveying the status quo, looking into possibilities and setting priorities for the City’s future parks and open spaces. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor and Emergency Preparedness Initiatives were also stewarded by Kathleen Landel at the bequest of the mayor. Kathleen and staff mobilized neighborhoods to cleanup, have community meetings and set up phone trees for emergencies so when cold weather hits those most vulnerable in our community are identified and taken care of. This was important and meaningful work and I really appreciate all the effort, time, patience and integrity Kathleen brought to City Hall. I will miss her.
Another thing Mayor Paul’s administration fostered was the Langley Gardens Project. Paul inspired and motivated Cathy Rooks and Kay Lagerquist to become citizen volunteers and spiff up the city gardens around town. The Garden Project called for donations to pay for the materials needed to create a beautiful new persona and garden at City Hall front and back. They gathered together a cadre of volunteers who have planted tons of bulbs that come up each spring to welcome visitors to our town with color and beauty. Another related coo was the wildly successful Community Garden Project that was also supported by Paul and this administration.
An initiative that had some teeth and effectiveness was the Mayor’s Council on Economic Development. Headed by then Councilman Russell Sparkman this group of citizens began to consider how to brand Langley. We adopted a new logo and started to focus on the experiences Langley has to offer. Experience Langley has spawned new businesses such as Langley’s Center for New Media, which brings hundreds of people here each year, and our new wine tasting offerings as well as the creation of more galleries. The new signage directing people to Langley happened because Paul and the Chamber worked diligently with the State and County governments to make it happen.
Another noteworthy accomplishment was the outstanding staff we have in place as the city moves forward. The people Paul hired and promoted were/are terrific! Early on our Public Works Dept. was asked to think creatively about how they could do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. The result is everyone in that dept. went thru a rigorous cross-training program and now they can all do each other’s job. We no longer need to hire outside contractors (much more costly) because our staff can do it all. Langley’s budget is operating in the black, quite an accomplishment given the economic times we are in. The staff, mayor and council all contributed to that effort.
Finally Langley’s Main Street Program was inspired and fostered by Mayor Paul. He encouraged members of the council and citizens to go to the state Main Street conventions so we could learn about this program and how it could benefit Langley. Four years later Langley Main Street is a reality and going strong. This year Langley Main Street sponsored our first ever 2nd St. Market, which was given much support and guidance by the staff and administration so it could get off the ground.
I want to appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that has been created around Langley during Paul Samuelson’s administration and thank him and all the council members who have worked so diligently during his term in office to make this city a good place to live and do business.
Bob Waterman has done so much for Langley during his time on the PAB and council. Thru Bob’s leadership, his love of history and his belief of its importance in Langley we now have in place the Historical Preservation Commission that will help us keep the look and feel everyone loves about Langley. I so value Bob’s thoughtful approach to problem solving and will miss his strength of leadership on the council. Besides Bob, Russell Sparkman and Fran Able, who I have great appreciation and respect for, have become friends and colleagues. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to serve with Robert Gilman whose undying ability to think creatively and globally, continues to inspire my imagination as I think about the future of our town. I may not have always agreed with council members and/or the mayor on important decisions. However, I have always felt each one came to the job with the utmost love for Langley and its citizens and the personal commitment to do their best and do what they and their constituents felt was right for Langley. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for your collective time, energy and courage. You will all be missed at city hall but hopefully not missing in Langley!
Looking forward to 2012 I am very excited to meet the new and returning council members and newly elected Mayor Kwarsick as we face the New Year together. Larry is a doer and looks forward to doing his best to serve Langley. His expertise and experience in government is welcome and I look forward to hearing more about what Larry wants to do! I would like to offer my wholehearted welcome to Larry as well as: Jim Sundberg, Hal Seligson, Doug Allderdice, Bruce Allen!
Now, lets roll up our sleeves and get to work! Happy New Year Langley, This new administration, staff and council will work together to make it a good year for all!
Respectfully Submitted by Rene Neff
The City Council meeting of December 5th began with a heart-warming expression of gratitude to Council Members Fran Abel and Bob Waterman and to Mayor Paul Samuelson for their years of public service to Langley. Since it was Fran’ s last Council meeting, thanks was in order for the many valuable and forthright contributions which she had made, with special mention of the successful summer Friday afternoon markets initiated this year. Council Member Rene Neff had prepared specially-designed and individualized certificates of appreciation for Fran, Bob and Paul and homemade cupcakes for the whole council and audience; and Fran Abel had brought along “Frans Chocolates,” enough for all. Kind words were spoken, all well deserved. I expect additional recognition for the contributions of Bob and Paul will follow in two weeks at their last Council meeting on December 19th.
As Fran’s elected replacement on the Langley City Council, and in the same spirit of gratitude, I want to thank all those who have shared with me their best wishes for the coming year of public service and projects in the City of Langley. There are several important initiatives going on: the expansion of the marina, the updating of the Shoreline Master Plan, the kickoff of the Second Street improvement project, and the continuing efforts of the Main Street organization in Langley, just to name a few. Your continuing participation in any or all of these projects is of course welcome, as are your specific suggestions. Please do let me know your interests as we work together for all of Langley.
You can gain firsthand information on both the Shoreline Master Plan effort and the Second Street Project by visiting a new web blog being maintained by Jeff Arango, Director of Langley’s Planning Department. Just enter “designLangley.org” in your web browser, read through the introductory documents, and sign up there to submit your comments to Jeff.
Last evening I said goodbye to council seat #3. Newly elected Jim Sundberg was immediately sworn in. Jim will be an outstanding councilman, coming to Langley’s council from Chair of the Planning Advisory Board and a lifetime of education and work experience making him exceedingly well qualified to represent the citizens of Langley.
Jim has my full support. I campaigned for Jim and have been in close touch with him during the transition. Despite the fact that I made the choice to not run for reelection, and that I couldn’t be happier with Jim as my seat’s new holder, I am experiencing some sorrow, along with relief.
The council’s work during these political tumultuous times has been annoying, difficult, and frustrating. It has also been mind-expanding, rewarding and exciting. Throughout the entirety of my short term, the challenges have been huge, especially as we were confronted with an economic downturn that put Langley’s budget in the red and were faced with the huge challenge of acting as a quasi judicial body in a complex land use matter.
Both of these challenges resulted in favorable outcomes but were stressful along the way. The favorable outcomes are: First, the city’s budget is now in the black with healthy reserves. Second, the Passages development was approved with increased public benefit. Third, the city has hired a hearing examiner for any future complex land use matters.
I am also exceedingly pleased that I was involved in Langley’s first very popular and successful summer market — Langley Second Street Market. I plan to continue my involvement in the market through the Langley Main Street Program.
It has been rewarding to serve and I thank you for the opportunity.
When I read G. B. Stern’s words: “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”, I was inspired to break my silence. There is no question that life in Langley is indeed something to be grateful for. Our village by the sea is quite the place.
One billion people on the planet live on less than $1 USD per day. They don’t have clean water, they don’t have sanitation, they don’t have adequate food, and they don’t have adequate shelter. If you have those four things, you are ahead of 83% of the world’s population. Since Langley has many good things beyond the four listed, we are factually among the most well off people in the world.
Putting Langley, and our lives in Langley, in perspective with the above facts, most of our problems lack magnitude and gratitude for our lives gains significance. With my council term drawing to an end, expressing gratefuls on this city blog seems very appropriate. Accordingly, with the hope of avoiding being maudlin here they are:
- I’m grateful for being given the opportunity to serve on the Langley City Council. It has been educational, challenging and rewarding. I have served with Bob, Rene, Russell, Robert, Hal, and Doug. Each of these hardworking, dedicated council people has influenced my thinking and contributed ideas to the decisions I’ve made.
- I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to serve on the council under Mayor Paul who, in his kind and thoughtful way, led the city through bleak budget reductions. It is always easy to hire new staff and give staff raises. It’s not so easy to reduce salaries and eliminate staff. The reward for this heart-wrenching work is our budget is now in the black.
- I’m grateful for new council members, Bruce and Jim, and I’m grateful for our new Mayor-elect, Larry. Each of these three men hold hopes and dreams for a better Langley. They will move Langley ahead while respecting and appreciating the good work that preceded them.
- I’m grateful for the city staff–men and women dedicated to doing their job well. And while not considered staff, the city’s volunteer board members work like staff as they develop park and open space recommendations, tirelessly grapple with land use and design issues, manage our cemetery, protect our history, and so much more. And of special note is a city volunteer, Thomas, who has worked tirelessly to upgrade the city’s computer and technical services.
- I’m grateful for Langley’s citizens. People with hopeful wishes for the town they know as home. A town of great caring and participation – church, school, government, charitable organizations, the arts, parks — so very evident in the millions of ways they contribute to their community. The generosity of Langley’s citizens is inspiring.
- I’m grateful for Langley’s merchants and business people, especially those who understand good business is about community building. So many in our business community generously support school activities, town festivals, markets and parades, the arts and artists, those suffering with medical or economic problems, town beautification projects, service organizations, and so much more.
Thank you Langley. I’m looking forward to many more good years to come.
“As for cars – once Fran Abel leaves the council I think we’ll hear a lot less about a “fleet” of eco-friendly city owned vehicles, i.e., a smart car or golf cart sized “fleet” that would really be handy for the public works department!”
(Comment from a South Whidbey Record article a few weeks ago)
Langley has always been, all my 28 years on Whidbey Island, a progressive-thinking, richly-creative, well-educated town of people interested in exploring life’s options fully. That exploration has been vast and has ranged from living small to clustered housing; from transportation that included bus travel, carpooling, eco-friendly vehicles to walking and biking; and from local credit unions to solar power. Langley’s residents, in my experience, have never been a closed-minded group of people but, instead, people of vast and far reaching ideals. So it follows that many of us want an on-going conversation about transportation’s many options. We want an in depth discussion about moving people – moving people without automobiles. And that means exploring the feasibility of electric cars, golf carts, Segways, and other forms of small vehicles to move people, including our city’s personnel.
For example, Segway reports that there are more than 1,000 patrol installations worldwide. The Port of Chelan is launching a hybrid car project, and the Bellevue Police, via a grant, are using this vehicle:
Indeed, to not bring up more energy efficient forms of transportation seems short sighted and irresponsible. The times are changing and getting stuck in the past, as others move beyond us, would be tragic. Our city needs to plan for the future and that means we need to continue to have discussions about change. Lively debate is a healthy thing.
Following are several articles about car-free-cities, or car-free zones within cities. Large cities with better transportation systems have an easier time planning for life without cars, or at the very least, life with reduced car use. Small towns have a more difficult time because of the scattered nature of our services and less efficient public transportation. That said, it is incumbent on us to do what we can to jump in our cars less often. Or, alternatively, to jump on our bikes more often. Letting parking trump parks is letting cars rule over people and leads to a less charming town. Letting automobiles dictate road design is ignoring pedestrians and increases pollution and noise. Putting all our money into highways and arterials, without bikeways, is ignoring an important form of efficient transportation – bicycles.
- One very interesting article by Chris Carissosn, “Towards Car-Free Cities”, is a reminder of our short automobile history. Carissosn says:
As we discuss the seemingly unrealistic idea of “car-free cities” it helps to remember the rich history that we are already living. Streets have not always been controlled and dominated by car industries. Private cars are a disaster for human and non-human life, and it’s high time we reconnect to the long history that has been resisting this monster. Life was very different before the car and it will be very different AFTER the car too!
- And, an article by Kamala Rao, Planning for People, not cars, Canadian Institute of Planners, Transportation Planner, Vancouver, B.C. makes the case by addressing fewer tax dollars, climate change and rising fuel costs. Rao says:
There is a big lesson here for Seattle and the rest of Cascadia…It can be done, and it has been done. Whether in Seoul or Portland or any of the many other cities where freeways have been removed and not replaced…. as Dr. Hwang and the citizens of Seoul will tell you, crazy ideas can work — with beautiful results at that.
- Parking Lots to Parks: Designing Livable Cities, by Lester R. Brown. Brown states:
Mayors and city planners the world over are beginning to rethink the role of the automobile, seeking ways to design cities for people, not cars. The integration of walkways and bikeways into urban transport systems anchored by public transportation makes a city eminently more livable than one that relies almost exclusively on private automobiles. Noise, pollution, congestion, and frustration are all lessened—and we and the earth are both healthier.
- The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread
For American cities to think outside the car would seem to require a mental sea change. Then again, Americans, too, are practical, no-nonsense people. And Zef Hemel, the chief planner for the city of Amsterdam, reminded me that sea changes do happen. “Back in the 1960s, we were doing the same thing as America, making cities car-friendly,” he said. Funnily enough, it was an American, Jane Jacobs, who changed the minds of European urban designers. Her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” got European planners to shift their focus from car-friendliness to overall livability.
Why is this? Why indeed, and why shouldn’t Langley be a leader in the discussion of making it work in small towns as well?
So yes, I’m leaving the council soon, but I’m not moving out of town. I will still be raising the issues of alternative forms of transportation with my council representatives, mayor, and Langley’s staff. I will also continue to have discussions and debates about this issue with my fellow citizens. Nope, I will not be silence. Once I leave the council, my voice will still ring out for a healthy debate on transportation, and many other current and important issues needing local action.
Besides, transportation can be fun too. How about this for getting down to the waterfront?