My 2017 election coverage continues! Here we have William Haas, Republican Candidate for Long Beach City Council. This makes 5 out of the 8 candidates responding to my questions so far. I really hope to have all of them on the blog as soon as possible. Enjoy!
Hi William, tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Hicksville in a loving household. My Father taught me at an early age to love this country and appreciate our freedoms. I was motivated to serve and was accepted into Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School which I attended after college. I moved to Long Beach in 1997 after serving ten years active duty as a Navy helicopter pilot. I love Long Beach and I decided I wanted to live here when I visited the beaches as a child and played against the local hockey team as a teenager. Over the past 20 years as a resident, I have observed many adverse changes within the community – though truthfully, I did not believe I was in a position to do anything about it. I am not a politician.
I finished ten years of Naval Reserve service and retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander in 2012. I currently work for Verizon Communications as an operations manager where I just finished my twentieth year of employment. I am a member (and occasional guest usher) at St. Ignatius Martyr. I spend my Friday nights hanging out with my friends at Gino’s. I enjoy golfing and playing the violin in my spare time.
Why are you running for city council?
We have all heard about the overdevelopment and rising taxes in Long Beach. Those are two of the primary issues in our platform. However, the most important issue to me personally is a commitment to ethics in governance. When I first started thinking about my campaign, I knew that every decision I would make – regardless of issue – would be based on my answers to two questions:
Is it ethical?
Will it benefit the resident of Long Beach?
Our current administration discarded any semblance of ethical conduct years ago. We hear about “backroom deals” at city hall, but when I realized the extent of the measures they took to hide their actions – rescheduling meetings at the last minute, secret votes, insider agreements to support outside developers – I found it truly disturbing. Why would an elected official try to hoodwink his or her own constituents?
But it begs the question – what did these individuals hope to gain?
All candidates like to present glowing visions of the communities they are running in to have some impact. What is your realistic vision for what you would like to see Long Beach become over the next 5 to 10 years?
My top priority is to restore Long Beach residents’ confidence in its city government. Over the course of our campaign I have knocked on thousands of doors. At two homes I was politely asked to leave once the residents realized my party affiliation. Of the remaining thousands of conversations, I encountered one person who thought our city council was doing a good job. ONE person. That is disgraceful.
Local governments should be run by locals for local residents. Trust between the residents and our current administration has been eroded over the past few years. Chris Jones , Leah Rosensweig-Tozer and I want to rebuild that trust beginning with a commitment to integrity and true transparency. We plan to emphasize communication and propose that all budgetary items be posted online. Each resident should have access to review the same line items that the City Manager sees. We want to increase transparency in our hiring process and create a non-partisan ethics board composed of local residents. The members will be trained in ethics and meet bi-annually to review ethics issues. We will also bring our ethics laws in line with the stricter New York State ethics laws.
Related to the last question, what would you say are the most important challenges that our city must address that are presently being ignored?
In addition to the lack of ethics and transparency, I believe Long Beach has a spending problem. Since 2011 our debt has gone up over 100% even after receiving millions of federal dollars in Sandy relief. Outside of the boardwalk, we have little to show for it. Compounding the problem is the current City’s lack of transparency in budgetary matters.
I believe there are opportunities to save money immediately. Specifically, I am told that a number of City vehicles are being used by non-essential personnel for personal reasons. We will immediately seek a review of all vehicles and their uses. This is just an example of the small but significant improvements we think we can implement immediately.
If the situation presents itself, what are the specific criteria that you will apply in the search for our next City Manager? What academic, experiential, residence, and political factors would you consider vital for the best candidate?
I believe the most important quality a person can possess is a commitment to integrity. As an Officer in the Navy and as a Manager at Verizon, it has been incumbent on me to evaluate individual work performance. I’ve found that the most successful performers are the ones that embrace this quality in all aspects of life.
Ideally, I would find a city manager with a track record of success in a town that shares characteristics similar to Long Beach. Political affiliation is not a concern, but we need someone who believes in our vision to promote quality of life here for the LB resident. And although education is significant it is not necessarily critical as I have seen outstanding performers with little formal education.
Our zoning laws were legislated with specific intentions with respect to overcrowding, maintaining neighborhood character, and ensuring quality of life. Yet, we have seen increasing petitions for variances, iStar being just one, that seem to negate the very purpose of the laws and are driven by big money investors with deep pockets and therefore outsized influence. What is your position on the Superblock and Yeshiva development and your specific position on when variances should be granted?
The current zoning code does not allow for residents to build to FEMA standards, which has forced many home-owners to seek variances merely to obtain affordable flood insurance. I believe that many of the variances were granted with the intent that our residents could continue to live in our town as they have for so many years. However, with the willingness of the zoning board to allow many individuals to update their homes, outside developers seem to think they are entitled to capitalize on the city’s goodwill and surpass current density and height requirements – to build far outside the character of the neighborhood.
The iStar development is a blatant example of the current administration’s politicking – backroom deals that further the political aspirations of council members; zoning allowances that will make outside developers extremely wealthy; a potential tax break that will strip any fiscal benefit from the current Long Beach resident; and an end-result of a large population influx without responsible infrastructure improvement. This is the legacy of our current administration. We will be paying for it for decades.
If elected, would you serve your full term?
Without question. I do not have outside political ambitions.
Any additional comments you might like to add?
Leah, Chris and I are running as a team. We have one vision and one agenda. Regardless of who wins, the incoming council members will join two incumbents with a demonstrated history of voting together to further their own interests and political careers. Getting one of us there isn’t enough to change the status quo – a token new member will be outvoted 4-1 on every decision. We know how these guys vote. We need to elect three new members who see eye-to-eye on the issues. If you agree with our platform – holding the line on taxes, stopping overdevelopment and increasing transparency in city hall, I hope you cast a vote for Chris, Leah and me in November.
Thank you, William.