EDITORIAL Dec. 12, 2001 Comp plan task force should end

The politics involved are sticky but the mayor’s effort to eliminate Oak Harbor’s comprehensive plan task force makes sense.

The task force was created years ago to help guide the city through the highly complex task of creating a comprehensive plan that complies with the state’s Growth Management Act. That job is long since finished, and there is little need to continue the task force. The responsibility of updating the comprehensive plan can now shift to the planning commission.

The process of eliminating the task force is not simple, however. The council voted 3-2 against the proposal in November. A vote for reconsideration, according to traditional council rules, could only be brought up by someone who voted against it the first time. But that rule was changed in a recent council workshop session, at least in the opinion of City Attorney Phil Bleyhl, so that a council member who missed a vote can now ask for its reconsideration. This allowed a council member absent from the November meeting to propose reconsideration, a motion which passed 4-3 with the full council voting. The issue is now on the Dec. 18 agenda for a final vote.

Whether this workshop maneuver orchestrated by the mayor follows the rules is debatable. The city attorney says it does, but it’s hard not to sympathize with those who say it doesn’t. Workshop sessions are designed for discussion only. No laws can be passed during a workshop, and the same should be true of rule changes. Save those for the regular meetings when members of the public are more likely to be present.

But the fact remains that the fate of the task force will be subject to another vote at the council’s Dec. 18 meeting. The council has a chance to reduce the complexity and cost of government at a time when the public is demanding just that. Eliminating a layer of unnecessary government is a good idea, and would send a message to the citizens of Oak Harbor that the council is listening to their concerns, expressed most recently in their support of Initiative 747.

The planning commission can handle annual updates to the comprehensive plan. All members are appointed by the mayor, which will arguably give her more power. But whatever the planning commission does will be done in public, and the mayor is ultimately answerable to the people.

Eliminate the comprehensive plan task force. Its time has come and gone.

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