Editorial: Dudley tosses the gauntlet

Oak Harbor City Councilman Scott Dudley entered unexplored territory earlier this week when he asked Island County leaders to consider taking back $1 million in development money earmarked for the big Pioneer Way improvement project downtown.

It’s unusual for a sitting council member to buck his or her peers in a public meeting, let alone try to undo a project dear to the hearts of the council majority. Dudley argued at the county seat Monday that the county didn’t intend to help fund the controversial one-way street configuration confirmed by a 4-3 council vote, but rather contributed money toward what was proposed at the time as a two-way street makeover.

It was a boldly political move by Dudley, who might as well have literally thrown down the gauntlet for mayor in next year’s election. He’s argued against the one-way street, siding with what appears to be the majority of downtown business owners. But trying to take away $1 million is an insult to the sitting mayor and the council majority. This could scuttle or at least delay the entire project.

Perhaps a long delay is what Dudley and his supporters are angling for. If they can keep the one-way issue alive it will play big in the 2011 elections. Mayor Jim Slowik’s term expires at the end of the 2011, as do the terms of the council’s one-way proponents Jim Palmer and Rick Almberg, as well as that of the less-predictable Beth Munns, who was against one-way before she was for it. Regardless, it looks like the ultimate design of downtown redevelopment could be riding on the outcome of the elections.

For aficionados of politics at the local level, 2011 promises to be a very good year in Oak Harbor.

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