Editorial: No standing committees for Oak Harbor City Council

The Oak Harbor City Council should write-off its standing committees as a failed effort and go back to meeting in workshop sessions.

After Mayor Jim Slowik was elected, the council at his urging created four standing committees: Public Works and Utilities, which meets at 7 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month in the Public Works Department; the Government Services Committee, which meets the second Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the City Hall Conference Room; the Finance Committee, 3:30 p.m. the second Wednesday at the City Hall Conference Room; and the Public Safety Committee, third Thursday at 7 a.m. at the Oak Harbor Fire Department.

The meeting of the committees, consisting of three council members each and any others that may decide to attend, as well as the mayor from time-to-time, are so scattered in time and location that no interested citizen, watchdog group or newspaper staffer could ever hope to keep up with them all.

As a result, many meetings are held in virtual secrecy, minutes are sketchy and it’s hard to know who was invited or what was said. In short, the public’s business is effectively conducted out of the public eye.

The city has also violated the Open Public Meetings Act when a quorum attended one meeting, making it an unannounced meeting of the full council. Since then, changes are being considered to clear up the rules for standing committees, but it won’t change the basic problem: Too many meetings at odd times with little public knowledge of what’s happening.

The council should instead go back to regularly scheduled evening workshops in the council chambers where every council member will hear about every issue and be fully informed. The citizens, able to view the meetings in person or on Channel 10, will also have the opportunity to be fully informed.

The standing committees may have been worth a try, but they’ve failed. The public good is paramount, and we have learned that public workshops of the full council as utilized in the past is a better way to serve the public.

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