July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:37 PM
"As former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson said, Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. That's a pretty good phrase to describe the State of the City address given by Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen at last week's chamber luncheon. The mayor used a blunt object on a few occasions in her speech before hundreds of prominent members of Oak Harbor's business community. Mayor Cohen may go down in history, for example, as the first Oak Harbor politician to openly acknowledge that the multiple strips of fast-food restaurants and service stations that line Highway 20 are the most prominent - and least attractive - landmarks of our city.She also refused to put a coat of varnish on the city's budget.The city will shortly be facing a crisis in relationship to our utility and enterprise funds, the mayor said. Increased costs from outside suppliers of our water and our solid waste suppliers and dump sites, unfunded mandates, worn out pieces of equipment and deferred maintenance issues all will precipitate rate adjustments to rate payers. These adjustments, in accordance with I-695, is subject to endorsement from the voters. Should I-695 be upheld in court, and our local voters reject the rate increase, it is possible that our utility funds could be bankrupt in the next 12 to 18 months.The temptation in politics is to always paint a rosy picture. The theory is to not alarm the voters, because alarmed voters make for short political careers. Using a term like bankrupt in a speech outlining the challenges facing city hall is hardly a way to keep voters sleepy and content.It's for exactly this reason we would like to applaud Mayor Cohen for her State of the City speech. Oak Harbor is at a moment in its history when it needs to define itself. Our community assets - our waterfront, our schools, our downtown, our relationship to the Navy - need to be fully utilized. Our local businesses need to be supported. Sleepiness is not what Oak Harbor needs.The mayor said it herself: We need to pull together as city government, city businesses and a community and stop pointing our fingers at others to correct our image and start working together to take control of our community's destiny."