Editorial: Early meetings make sense

An earlier meeting time of 6 p.m. makes sense for the Oak Harbor City Council.

There was some doubt expressed last week before the council members unanimously approved the change, beginning with the Wednesday, Nov. 4, meeting. But in fact it was a good idea; one that should benefit the public at large.

Under Mayor Jim Slowik, council meetings have generally been well run. With the old, 7 p.m. starting time, meetings typically adjourned between 9 and 10 p.m. But for particularly volatile subjects with lots of people wanting to comment publicly, meetings could drag on to 11 p.m. or beyond. That’s getting real late for people who have to get kids ready for school the next morning and go to work.

The earlier time will make it easier for people to stop by the council meeting after work, rather than going home and then going back, and it will ease the strain on city employees who have to attend the meetings. The change will be a hassle for those who go home and eat dinner at 6 o’clock every night, making them rush to get to the council meeting. But in this hectic age, there aren’t that many people living the Ozzie & Harriet lifestyle any more.

The one danger is that the earlier time will tempt the mayor to let the meeting drag on longer, since it won’t seem so late. But Slowik does a good job of keeping speakers on-topic, and that’s unlikely to change.

One way to judge the effectiveness of an elected or appointed public executive is how well he or she runs a public meeting. Meetings that drag on too long suggest an executive who isn’t prepared for the meeting, isn’t in charge of the agenda, and who’s too timid to urge people to be succinct in their presentations. That’s not a problem in Oak Harbor, but we can’t say the same for all jurisdictions on Whidbey Island. Others should also consider an earlier starting time, and use the change to conduct their business in a more expeditious manner.

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