Editorial: Oak Harbor mayor acts impetuously

Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik never ceases to surprise, a case in point occurring last week when he walked into an antique store and walked out with one of his 2007 campaign signs that had been somewhat altered. A dose of black marker added “Vote Him Out” to the original “Jim Slowik for Mayor” message.

This isn’t the first time Slowik’s campaign signs have caused him a problem. When he was running for office it didn’t take long for people to notice he had appropriated the sailboat portion of the city logo as well as its colors for his own use. The city objected and Slowik agreed to put a decal over the logo on all his signs.

The mayor’s most recent sign incident is more concerning. He walked into a private business establishment and took a sign with a political message, thereby interfering with free speech. Like many downtown business owners, the antique store owner has been furious over the city’s decision to make Pioneer Way a one-way street.

Slowik, with backing from the police chief, claims he owns the sign. Lawyers could no doubt argue endlessly about this, but in fact the sign was given to the business owner who used it for his own purposes years later. It wasn’t until the negative words were added that Slowik personally removed the sign from the window of the business.

This was an impetuous act, and perhaps illegal. But it’s probably not worth the time and trouble to investigate this as a crime, as the mayor has embarrassed himself enough already. Perhaps the city council should censure him, like a Congressman who embarrasses the elective body. The incident is similar to the Open Public Meetings Act violation of the city council subcommittee that the mayor never admitted was wrong, even though he decided to change the ordinance under pressure from the state Attorney General’s office. Besides, the business owner purchased another sign by a sympathizer and we encourage him to put it back in the window, with the requisite black marker additions.

The mayor has some good points, such as pursuing projects until the job is done and having the courage to advance changes that he thinks are correct even when tough public opposition is significant.

Ultimately, the voters will decide how Mayor Slowik has performed in office, assuming he chooses to run again. The most recent sign incident will be just one more thing for voters to consider in making their decision.

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