Whidbey News-Times


Citizens shouldn’t be left to speculate on reasons why | In Our Opinion

August 9, 2014 · Updated 4:16 PM

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council twice rejected Oak Harbor resident and conservative blogger Cliff Howard for a position on the city’s planning commission.

Trouble is, none of the council members have said why they don’t want him on the volunteer board, leaving voters — and the mayor — to speculate on the reasons.

For that matter, Mayor Scott Dudley should explain why he thinks Howard, who is highly critical of most council members and a champion of the mayor, is the best choice for the planning commissioner.

It might be awkward or uncomfortable sometimes, but elected leaders owe it to constituents to explain their decisions publicly.

Dudley chose to appoint Howard to the commission, the most important board in the city. It can be a stepping stone for people with political aspirations.

As Councilwoman Tara Hizon recently pointed out, the commission has important work ahead next year as the city updates its comprehensive plan. It’s a huge task that will have a very real impact on development and growth.

It makes some sense that the council wants strong candidates to the position. At the same time, it is rare for the council to block such an appointment.

Dudley was clearly not happy with the council’s action Wednesday night. He strayed from his role as non-biased, keeper-of-order at the meeting. He publicly criticized the council’s decision and allowed the meeting to descend into a situation in which people were talking over one another.

It’s not Dudley’s place to question the motives of the council in rejecting his candidate. But they lent to the chaos by not citing a reason.

Howard told the Whidbey News-Times that he would like an explanation, even if it meant that they criticized him publicly. He said he understood that part of the public process is that elected officials may discuss his qualifications.

After the meeting, Hizon explained that she read some of Howard’s blogs and didn’t believe he understands some key issues facing the city.

Councilman Rick Almberg said he thinks there are better candidates.

Dudley must now find another candidate to appoint to the commission. Hopefully, he chooses a candidate who understands land use and isn’t a political statement.

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