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Munns hopes to keep Oak Harbor City Countil seat as Eaton returns: Corrected
Elections are about choices and this year voters will decide between a city councilwoman who is happy about the way things are and a former city councilman who is unhappy about how things have changed since he left office.
Vying for Position 2 on the council is incumbent Beth Munns and former city councilman Larry Eaton. Munns is finishing up her first term in office and Eaton has served two separate terms since the 1990s.
Munns, a Navy wife of 37 years, was well known in the community before she was elected. She is the wife of former base commander Larry Munns, served nine years on the Oak Harbor Planning Commission, and is the Navy League’s Oak Harbor Area Council National Director.
She is seeking reelection largely because she wants to continue work that’s already begun on several large capital projects. Chief among them is a new wastewater treatment plant, which is planned to be built and operational by 2017.
The city is still early in its efforts as a final location has yet to be selected. One possible but unpopular site, Windjammer Park, is still under consideration. Although many are adamantly against the idea, it is not only the cheapest of the alternatives but can also be built in a way that is visually appealing.
“I’m not willing to rule out Windjammer but I know socially that’s death,” she said.
She also wants to continue work on the city’s proposed reservoir project. As proposed, Munns said it will provide the city with three days’ of water, which would serve as a safety net in the event of a catastrophic failure of the waterline from Anacortes.
Finally, Munns wants to continue as an advocate of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. She claimed that 68 percent of all employment and 88 percent of all revenues in Island County are related to the base.
“That’s huge,” she said.
Eaton, who spent 30 years as an Oak Harbor High School teacher, was first elected to a council seat in 1994. He was defeated after his first term by Richard Davis, but ran a successful campaign that led him back to power in 2004. He decided not to run again in 2007 for family reasons.
Eaton said he ran in 2004 because he regretted losing to Davis and considers politics a personal duty. He is running this time because he said he was asked (he declined to say by whom) and believes the city council has gone astray in his absence.
First and foremost, he said he can’t understand why the city council voted to turn SE Pioneer into a one-way. He was also highly critical of the discovery of Native American remains and the later revelation that city officials, including the city council, were warned about a nearby archaeological site by state regulators.
“This to me is one of the most egregious bum-fumblings in the city’s history,” Eaton said.
Despite the problems that have emerged downtown, Munns said this was an infrastructure project that was badly needed for more than 30 years. She’s proud that she was on a city council that finally got it done when so many before didn’t.
As for the one-way decision, she believes the public’s preference was equally spilt. Many people voiced strong opinions for a two-way, but she claims she heard from just as many who supported a one-way in less public settings, such those she bumped into at the grocery store or around her neighborhood.
Eaton also points to the dispute last year concerning city standing committee meetings. Despite several warnings, the city council adopted new policies that the state Attorney General’s Office later said violated the Open Public Meetings Act.
“It never would have happened on my watch,” Eaton said.
If elected, Eaton promised to advocate for the live televising of city council meetings. He also wants to begin taping standing committee meetings, move them all to City Hall and to standardize their times to make them more accessible to the public.
“I think common sense would tell anyone 7 a.m. is just too early for a meeting,” Eaton said.
Munns said she has no qualms about taping standing committee meetings but question the usefulness of moving them to City Hall. It would be a big disruption for city staff and Munns said she can’t help but wonder whether it would actually increase public participation.
Eaton wants to revisit a discussion to bring in a new big-box store. Right now, Oak Harbor needs jobs and a business such as Costco would go a long way toward that goal. He also wants to be a part of the process to build a new wastewater treatment plant. He hasn’t made his mind up about where it should go, but is sure that it should not be located at Windjammer Park.
Both candidates believe they are the best person for the position.
Munns said she’s already involved in the wastewater treatment plant project and cites her past experience with the Navy. She knows both the Navy’s and the city’s perspective and that makes her a distinctly useful member of the city council.
“I think I’m a good poker chip,” Munns said.
Eaton said Munns was one of the nicest people in the world and that it is largely a matter of faith for voters that he can do a better job. However, he said he is analytical, logical and investigative, and those traits make him the best candidate.