No hats off to the Oak Harbor City Council | Editorial

No hats at Oak Harbor City Council meetings? That’s going too far in restricting freedom of expression.

The “no hats” policy was proposed by newly appointed City Councilman Joel Servatius as a way to make the public look more respectful toward the council. This would be a blow to Mel Vance, a periodic candidate and frequent commenter before the council. The fact he wears a ball cap at the microphone takes nothing away from his comments, which are usually thoughtful and helpful.

At the same meeting, Councilman Rick Almberg proposed that the public comment portion of the meeting be moved from the top of the agenda to the bottom. This is worse than that hat proposal, as by the time the council finishes its meetings most thoughtful people have left for home. The only ones remaining often are wearing tinfoil hats.

Servatius has contributed positively to council discussions since his appointment in February to fill the vacancy created when Scott Dudley was elected mayor. We’ll chalk up his hat proposal to inexperience in the public arena. Elected officials simply have to respect the great unwashed who don’t wear suits and ties and sometimes wear stocking caps, baseball caps or hoodies. After all, they’re not the ones we trust to do the right thing, such as deciding where to put a $100 million sewer plant and how to pay for it.

Almberg’s recommendation simply suggests he’s too thin-skinned. From the Pioneer Way project to the foreseeable Indian bone discoveries to the location of the new sewer plant, he’s taken plenty of public criticism. But his proposal to muffle the public by putting them last on the agenda is not worth further consideration.

Mayor Scott Dudley was correct in stating that he’s very concerned about talk of trying to control what the public says or wears.

The public comment period is a great way to open the meetings, and no doubt boosts the TV viewership. People have a couple of minutes to spout off, and  in fact comments are more likely to be positive than negative. Putting the public first should be common sense for any elected official. And what comes out of their mouths has nothing to do with what’s on top of their heads.


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