Opinion

Elect Slowik, Hizon, Eaton | Editorial

As bullheaded as he can be, Mayor Jim Slowik is the best candidate to lead Oak Harbor over the next four years.

And he is bullheaded, as revealed by his decision to fight for the right of subcommittees not to advertise when a majority of council members will be present. On the positive side, he surrendered and did the right thing when the Washington State Attorney General’s Office sided with this newspaper and other advocates of open government.

The decision to proceed with Pioneer Way construction without an archeologist present, as strongly suggested by a state office, was also bullheaded. It would have slowed construction and perhaps added more to the initial cost. When Native American bones were indeed found, the resulting official investigation didn’t blame Slowik. But the buck stops on his desk, and the determination to proceed full steam ahead had Slowik’s fingerprints all over it. Cost of the mistake stands roughly at $500,000 and is climbing. Still, the project is close to its original budget and it’s virtually complete, a fact the downtown merchants celebrated with city officials last Saturday. It looks terrific and it wouldn’t have been done without Slowik’s determination.

Slowik has other infrastructure successes to his credit, from fixing water leaks to undergrounding ugly utility lines. He has a way of getting things done when others would still be talking about it. We need a new sewer plant and he has the drive to get it done. Oak Harbor is a better city than it would have been had Slowik not been elected mayor four years ago.

As for Slowik’s opponent, Scott Dudley, he’s done a good job as the council’s unofficial naysayer and he provides a sympathetic ear to any and all who oppose any city action. He was against the one-way Pioneer Way project, but he went way too far when he tried to kill it by asking the county to rescind a substantial grant. Dudley should keep doing what he does best: Asking good questions, bucking the status quo and offering alternatives. As mayor, it’s unlikely he would be able to lead a city council of Slowik supporters.

The scale toward more openness and independence can be tipped for the better in the council races. Political newcomer Tara Hizon is a far better choice than retread Paul Brewer, an obstructionist who served 12 years during which time his bravado always exceeded his knowledge of the facts. Hizon is young, idealistic, smart, technologically savvy and independent. She’ll be a far more creative thinker and someone with whom the youth of this community can relate.

A council change would also be wise in replacing the well-loved Beth Munns with Larry Eaton, a retired history teacher who has served in the past. Munns votes for the status quo, even if that means changing her vote to go along with the others; and she was no champion of the public in the row over subcommittee meetings. Eaton has a long record of fighting for televised council meetings. Now he wants to expand that coverage to live council meetings and recorded subcommittee meetings. He’ll be the public’s trusted watchdog when it comes to open government.

After November, we should have Jim Slowik as mayor, but Hizon and Eaton will help check his power. The guy spends way too much time on Channel 10, for example.

The city can continue to make progress under Slowik, particularly if Rick Almberg, a developer whose skills are necessary to get things done, is reelected over his good-natured opponent, Mel Vance. But the mayor needs a couple of new council members to help keep him under control, and those would be Hizon and Eaton.

 

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