What’s No. 1?

The city of Oak Harbor may finally have a number-one priority project next Thursday.

During a lively discussion Tuesday, Mayor Patty Cohen and the city council members pledged to finally pick a priority, or at least take giant steps toward that goal, from among the more than $90 million worth of proposed projects.

The priority debate will take place during a Thursday, May 24, economic development meeting.

The proposed projects in question include a long list of non-vital, quality-of-life plans that include a new senior center, reconstruction of Pioneer Way, Windjammer Park redevelopment, construction of a pier and marina redevelopment.

In a bold move, Cohen said she didn’t want the meeting to take place unless the council members agreed to be willing to forego many favorite projects. After all, there can only be one number-one project.

“It’s going to take a heck of a lot of courage to let go of some of these projects,” she said.

The council members agreed. Councilman Eric Gerber was absent.

The issue of prioritization came up after Councilman Larry Eaton questioned Cohen and objected to her comments in a May 9 article in the Whidbey News-Times. In the article, Cohen complained about the council’s inability or unwillingness to pick a top priority project, which she felt was stalling progress.

Tuesday, Cohen didn’t back down, but reiterated her frustration.

“There are $92 million of projects out there and I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be working on,” she said.

Eaton, however, felt it wasn’t appropriate for the mayor to publicly complain about the council.

“It certainly makes the council look like a lot of doofuses,” he said, “and it doesn’t make the city look any better.”

Councilwoman Sue Karahalios threw the blame back at the mayor. She said the council members emphatically expressed that they wanted to hash out the issues in a workshop early in the year, but city administration dropped the ball by not ever setting a workshop.

Karahalios claims that the council was told that only the mayor can set workshops.

The mayor disagreed. “Council can set up a workshop anytime you want a workshop,” she said.

But in the end, the elected officials committed to working together and moving forward with prioritization.

The meeting May 24 begins at 6 p.m. in council chambers in City Hall.

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