Editorial: Taking stock of ourselves

  • Wednesday, June 20, 2007 8:00am
  • Opinion

What is Oak Harbor’s destiny? In the coming weeks, candidates for mayor and city council should give some deep thought to answering this question.

To many, Oak Harbor’s growth in recent years has been alarming. Hundreds of former agricultural acres have made way for thousands of new homes. The market appears saturated with housing. And yet the city is reaching out for more room to grow, planning for hundreds of more homes on what is now farmland.

Meanwhile, the city has a construction priority list nearing $100 million with no apparent way to pay for most of it. The aim is to attract more businesses, more residents and more money by improving the infrastructure. If this means paving over Little League baseball fields, for example, so be it. One has to listen carefully to even hear these plans questioned by the mayor or any city council member. They argue over what big project should come first, but not whether it makes any sense to be heading this direction. Is more always best? Is more of everything going to make Oak Harbor a more desirable city in which to live?

This newspaper prints a number of stories each year about newcomers to Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island. To the best of our memory, nobody has ever said they came here because of the housing developments or the broad thoroughfares with the wide shoulders. On the contrary, they came for the open space, the simple country roads, the access to Puget Sound and the wonderful wildlife on the land, in the sea and in the air.

With its transient population and policy bodies heavily influenced by those who profit from development, Oak Harbor has been slow to realize the world is changing. What once was called progress in many cases is now considered an environmental disaster. Fortunately, some residents of the Oak Harbor area are figuring this out. They’re organizing. They’re supporting existing environmental groups or starting their own. They’re challenging the latest expansion of Oak Harbor’s growth boundary and scrutinizing new development proposals. This is healthy. Critics aren’t always right, but their input assures projects are fully explained and properly mitigated when approved.

With three city council seats and the mayor position up for election, this is a critical election year in Oak Harbor. In many ways, the winners will decide our future. The public has a vital role to play. Study the candidates’ positions, ask tough questions, don’t be satisfied with answers that are saccharine but empty, don’t let the candidates dodge hard questions.

In the end, Oak Harbor’s future is in the hands of those good citizens who take the time to study the issues, get active in politics and vote. It’s time to decide what we want our future to be and to support only those candidates who are best suited to lead the way.

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