Priority list continues to elude council

The Oak Harbor council continues to debate the city’s 32-priority list to represent their current initiatives.

The goal is to achieve a clear and concise list of priorities for the city especially as they pertain to the 2025-2026 budget, Mayor Ronnie Wright said at a recent workshop.

The new structural concept for the list works like a bingo card, with the council’s overarching priorities at the top and individual categorical projects underneath. They even created the acronym, Budget Inspire New Growth Opportunities. The card will go on the city’s website with updates as projects complete.

“When we check items off, the community wins,” said Interim City Administrator Sabrina Combs.

According to Mayor Pro Tem Tara Hizon, part of the problem resulting in such a long priority list is that they’re conflating overarching priorities, which could be philosophical ideas, with existing projects.

The new structure still needed discussion. In the process for developing the council’s priorities, existing projects were included that the council had never heard of before, like a parking reduction study and a food truck court.

“How are these all of a sudden council priorities when we’re not even sure how they made the list?” Councilmember Eric Marshall asked.

In a speed-round of votes, the council decided what should be set in stone, and the BINGO card took shape.

A priority, for example, is facility improvements. The projects beneath this concept are a new city hall roof, the new fire station and a new police station.

Affordable housing is a priority; rezoning specific areas with a form-based code is a project within this category.

On the old list, these all would have been distinct priorities. The old list, with so many directions, became a point of contention at times. At the workshop, council members took a more light-hearted approach.

There were three votes for a relaxed dress code, Wright said, but city council doesn’t have a formal dress code.

Eyes in the room went to Councilmember Bryan Stucky, the only one donning a full suit and tie.

“We were just messing with Stucky,” Marshall said.

Combs thought the initiative came from Stucky, she said.

“You thought I was calling everybody out?” Stucky asked. “Maybe I should!”

The final priorities card will be presented to council at a future city council meeting for official approval and be posted on the city’s website thereafter.