An interesting Oak Harbor City Council Meeting, agenda items removed and a citizen apologizing to the audience and blaming the Mayor for performing his duty

Author:Cliff Howard

Interesting City Council meeting last Tuesday night. On the agenda there was an item that was recommended by the city Attorney Grant Weed to be placed on the agenda and brought before the council. This item was included to ensure the city was following the most recent court decisions and was placed on the agenda as a policy change to protect the city from a possible future lawsuit. We are not going to get into the details of  the proposed city policy but instead the process that was unfair to the citizens that attended the meetings and also the interesting comments to the council and citizens that occurred during the  meeting.

The wide majority of the crowd at the meeting was there for this one issue. It was on the agenda and information was included in the agenda package that was available to the council and the citizens on the previous Friday. The issue was never heard by the council and the citizens that attended never got a chance to participate. The council had adequate time to prepare themselves to hear this issue but instead they short circuited the process by removing this item from the agenda leaving the citizens that came to speak without an issue to speak to.

During the approval of the agenda Council person Tara Hizon made a motion that this item be tabled. This was done for the supposed reason that there was much more important issue for the council to deal with that night. Her comments were more than a bit confusing because Tara Hizon insisted that this item was being tabled when in fact it was being removed from the agenda and not tabled.

After tabling, or removing from the published agenda, the issue that the majority of the public came to hear and participate in was no longer on the agenda. During the open comment period 8 or 9 people commented on that issue in fact all the comment were concerning this issue except for 2 people. Both of these other commenter’s comments were notable.

First speaker was a citizen who is a self anointed “city council watcher” and well known supporter of certain members of the council. He attempted to apologize to the citizens in the councils name and place the blame directly on the Mayors shoulders for the agenda item and the fact that it was removed from the agenda. He did not speak to the council and the mayor, he spoke directly to the audience and seemed to be speaking for the council itself except for the notable exception he made towards Jim Campbell. He was correct in saying that the Mayor and administration added this to the agenda for the council to decide upon but that is how our system works. We have seen in the very recent past how our previous Mayor and administration ignored clear and direct warnings of liability and now our city is facing $14,000,000.00 in possible liability with the Native American grave fiasco during the downtown street rebuild.

It was amazing to see this supporter of certain members of the city council apologizing to the public for the councils actions and attempting to place all blame on the Mayor especially on an issue that was to prevent the city from the possibility of a lawsuit and was the duty of the Mayor to include on the agenda for the council to hear.

The second notable speaker was a gentleman reminding us that the filing period for city council  candidates is soon approaching. He suggested to the council that they have been being watched since their past election and the people have been judging them ever since. He also alluded to  the fact that many in the council who are up for election should be worried because of the  citizens of Oak Harbor have been watching the councils actions, antics and arguments and suggested they may be surprised come the November election. We could not agree more.

This is why the citizens of this city need to take their city council back from those that are mere puppets of these “city council watchers” who obviously not only manipulate those on the council but then apologize for their actions during public meetings. This was a shameful display and prime evidence that there are those on our council who work for others and not the citizens of our city or for the best interests of our city.

Below is a video that was edited from the original recordings available from the city. They have been edited for brevity and include Tara Hizon speaking about removing the agenda item. The first citizen speaking for the city council and placing all blame on the Mayor. And finally the gentlemen speaking and reminding the council that we are watching…a classic in it’s own right  and a very apt comment to the council considering the antics and arguments that happened at that nights meeting.

 

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22 comments

  1. avatar

    A cursory reading of Resolution 13-06 in the City Council reading packet indicates it to have been a rather well though-out resolution with a goal of the continuation of invocations at City Council meetings while also insulating the City of Oak Harbor from potential lawsuits about this traditional activity.

    It is available to read here:
    http://www.oakharbor.org/uploads/documents/256050713_councilpacket.pdf

    Ironically, Pastor Tim Geist provided an example of just such an invocation at the start of this particular City Council meeting, and nobody present objected to it or seemed to have a problem with him doing so whatsoever. when he did so.

    Tara Hizon, however, says “It was “hrose radish” (haha) that it even appeared on the agenda in the first place, having already been addressed last year”.

    See that comment for yourself here: http://www.islandpolitics.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/hizon_horseradish.jpg

    Tara Hizon has “horse radish” for brains.

    Attorney Chris Skinner’s podium antics as a City Council Council spokesperson demonstrates how deeply runs the collusion for the creation-of-anarchy at City Council meetings between him and some members of the City Council.

    Personally, I have already decided that most everyone on the City Council needs to go, based on their grossly dysfunctional epic failure to vote appropriately on the “no-brainer” resolution to fix Municipal Code regarding firearms within city limits when it FIRST came before the City Council.

    By that reference, I mean: “Oak Harbor City Council openly violates state law by voting to uphold clearly illegal City Code regarding firearms in public parks”: http://www.islandpolitics.org/?p=8196

    1. avatar

      Please note I support the idea of a prayer before a meeting.

      This is total Beyond Stupid to create controversy over an expression of a desire of the powerful to be on the side of good rather than the side of good being on the side of the powerful. Good grief!!!!!

      Thank you.

      1. avatar

        The controversy is, again, being created by some members of the Oak Harbor City Council and by their “second”, local attorney Chris Skinner.

    2. avatar

      What is surprising to me is the fact that Mr Skinner, the person who defended the council and placed blame on the mayor is the same person who supported our past mayor Jim Slowik. He also apparently supports Tara Hizon the councilperson who amended the agenda. I wonder if Mayor Slowik was relying on this same persons advice when he chose to ignore the letter from the Archaologic Preservation Board when the city was warned of Native American graves before the Pioneer Way construction? This is the same type of situation that the current mayor is trying to circumvent by adding items to the agenda that protect our city. Our past mayor obviously did not bring the letter from the Archaologic board to the council attention before the vote and look what it has cost our city. Mayor Dudley has a duty to add items to the agenda that are brought to him by members of the administration especially if those items that are brought forward have to do with protecting our city from lawsuits.

      This is also the same faction of the council that allowed our city to be a laughing stock over the correction of our city code that was not in line with state laws on firearms. It was pretty obvious that these same members of the council made a poor decision in that matter also, I wonder if it was this same person who advised the council in that matter also?

      It seems that a lawyer like Mr. Skinner would see the value of amending our city code to insulate the city from the potential of a lawsuit and not actively fight against it and then defend a council member when that council person removes it from the agenda. Politics are again the primary reason for the city council’s actions. They need to make this mayor and administration look bad at all cost even at the cost of allowing a lawsuit against the city.

      If there was not enough time during this meeting to resolve this issue and vote on it then Tara or another member of the council should have made a motion to table the issue for further investigation/discussion before a later vote. To clumsily remove this item from the agenda without hearing any of the facts as to why it was added by the city attorney does a disservice to those like the city attorney who are onlt attempting to protect our city and only leaves our city open to future lawsuits.

      Many members of this council like Tara Hizon and their supporters like Christon Skinner need to be removed from power in this city. It is clear that they cherish political power and one upmanship more than they cherish doing what is right for the city.

      1. avatar

        “Ignorance is Bliss” has recently become the substandard theme and modus operandi of most members of the City Council.

        Chris Skinner’s City Council sock puppet routine rivals this one: http://abnormalfacies.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/ignorance-is-bliss-kermit.jpg

  2. avatar

    Ya’ll just don’t understand, this is the way it is done here in the big city. Skinner was just standing up for his minions in the council against the Mayor. We all know who those people are. No matter that the Mayor was right… that is not the point with his council and their supporters it is all about those who think they have the power in this city.
    I think the next election may be an eye opener to this council. This Boss Hog style of politics needs to end in this city, this is NOT Alabama in the 60′s. The voters are getting tired of this council and their BS…it is time it is finally ended.

    1. avatar

      Your analogy is so perfectly spot-on. It would be a laughable analogy if it were not so sadly accurate.

  3. avatar

    Paragraph 3 of the resolution is in direct conflict with the most recent and relevant case law dealing specifically with content of prayers at City Council meetings: Rubin v. City of Lancaster from the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals; filed March 26, 2013.

    http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/03/26/11-56318.pdf

    Grant Weed could not possibly have reviewed this ruling before copying the draft resolution from Marysville. All sources provided in the agenda packet related to the resolution were therefore out-of-date, and legally obsolete.

    1. avatar

      The final line of that document to which you link says “…neither Hearns’s April 27 invocation nor the City’s prayer policy constituted an unconstitutional establishment of religion.”

      What is the contention, then, from that reference which you are invoking: that due to that 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals of March 26, 2013, Oak Harbor City Council Resolution 13-06 is entirely a moot point….or?

    2. avatar

      It seems to me that “Tim” is asserting at least two things that are possibly quite fallacious:

      1. “Tim” asserts “all sources provided in the agenda packet related to the resolution were…out-of-date, and legally obsolete.”

      Yet, “Tim” fails to specify how that may be so. The argument of “Outdated information” for “All sources” seems rather questionable, at best. See:
      http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#outdated

      2. “Tim” asserts “Grant Weed could not possibly have reviewed this ruling”. In saying this, “Tim” demonstrates “Amazing familiarity” with the inner-thoughts of another person. See: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#familiarity

    3. avatar

      The fact is that the Freedom Of Religion Foundation is actively warning and also suing municipalities such as ours for not having a policy on non denominational invocations. A letter has been sent to the city warning them of this issue and this was our chance to adopt code that would circumvent those possible lawsuits from happening.

      In this case we have one decision from the 9th District Court and another 2011 decision from the 4th District Court that rules exactly the opposite of the 9th courts decision. This is why currently the law on this issue is unsettled and destined to be heard by the SCOTUS. Until then and seeing how other municipalities are being sued for not having a policy that has been deemed settled law it is a bit foolish for Oak Harbor to be the test case for another lawsuit. That almost happened with the Second Amendment Foundation remember?

      I personally feel that this is ridiculous…the First Amendment is very clear on what laws may be passed in an effort to curtail religion. “Congress shall make no law” and “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” is very clear to me. I do believe that the 9th courts decision was the correct one.

      BUT until the time comes that this is indeed the law of the land and the threat of lawsuits by religious “freedom” groups is over we do need to at the minimum inform the council of the risks and the hazards involved with ignoring recommendations from the City Attorney. It is up to the council to decide after all the information is received and discussed whether to enact the law or not. Instead we have a council that has stuck their head in the sand and is avoiding the issue and it is mainly due to a political grudge against the Mayor…

      For the City Attorney and the Mayor NOT to bring this to the council would be a dereliction of duty on their part.

  4. avatar

    The point is that the City was responding to a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF of Madison, WI) dated 2/16/12, which argued that prayer at a City Council meeting violates the Constitution in general, and specifically because some clergy mention Jesus by name. The Rubin v. Lancaster ruling shreds the FFRF legal reasoning.

    The City could certainly draft a new resolution related to invocations, but it would have to conform to the latest case law, as opposed to stating that one cannot pray in the name of a particular deity. Page 22 of the 9th Circuit ruling states that requiring volunteers to refrain altogether from referencing sectarian figures is “fraught with constitutional peril.”

    I have no problem with a resolution that defines how the City solicits volunteers for the opening prayer, but Mr. Weed would be wise to draft it from the City of Lancaster, because their procedure is tested and true, thereby providing the most current protection from litigation.

    The Supreme Court is currently refusing to take any cases specific to praying “in Jesus’ Name.” As such, the Rubin v. Lancaster decision stands as the most current and relevant case law, and further clarifies previous USSC rulings on the broader issue of public prayer as related to the Establishment Clause.

    1. avatar

      “The Rubin v. Lancaster ruling shreds the FFRF legal reasoning.”

      Not really. There are previous court decisions that affirms the reasonings of the FFRF and thein lies the problem. Until the SCOTUS either takes the case or lets it stand there is still the chance of a lawsuit.

      As the 9th circuit is the most overturned appeals court in the country I do not know if it would be wise to base anything on that decision.

      Joyner v. Forsyth County, No. 10-1232 (4th Cir. Ju. 29, 2011)
      Abstract: In a 2-1 split, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that a North Carolina county’s policy allowing opening prayers at its board of commissioners meetings violates the Establishment Clause
      http://legalclips.nsba.org/?p=8106

      This is the decision, one of them, that the FFRF is using as justification for the warnings and lawsuits against cities not complying.
      Here is a story about a warning May 5th against a county in North Carolina by the FFRL for exactly the same reason as the warning Oak Harbor received:
      http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/05/05/4022275/union-county-could-face-lawsuit.html

      Notice this warning was sent in early May 2013, Rubin v Lancaster was decided in March some 2 months earlier and this has not stopped these people from filing lawsuits…and that is the point.

      1. avatar

        The 6th Circuit may be passing the 9th for being most overturned, but I get your point.

        http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/a_sixth_sense_6th_circuit_has_surpassed_the_9th_as_the_most_reversed_appeal/

        However, why would the FFRF sue a city in the 9th Circuit, considering Rubin v. Lancaster? Wouldn’t they target cities in circuits that have ruled more in their favor?

        1. avatar

          I agree with your logic. BUT you have to understand that these people will do anything to further their cause. None of this makes ANY sense at all to me, our Bill of Rights is very clear. I am certainly not a bible thumper but I do understand what our Constitution clearly states and recognize those rights reserved to the people.

          The FFRF is clearly does not recognize the same things that you and I may recognize and clearly has the motivation and the funding to carry through with their threats to further their cause. It is a free country…

          The agenda item was an attempt to have a policy that circumvented any question on the official policy of the city. Does this mean that someone will shush you during a council meeting for saying the name of your lord? I seriously doubt it and any council member that did would be doing so at thier own peril.

          We live in a lawsuit happy society, many of our laws are designed only to circumvent legal issues.

          This still is an issue that the city council should have heard, debated and decided upon or tabled and decided on after more study. They could have accepted the new policy or rejected it, at least it would have been done with a little bit of knowledge and debate instead of being short circuited and removed from the agenda.

          The council should ALWAYS give the city attorney a chance to be heard when he brings a liability issue to the council, period. No matter what the cause or how unpopular it may be.

          And I did not know that about the 6th…great link.

        2. avatar

          So, your argument is: it was not a needed resolution, because the FFRF is bluffing and so the Mayor and City Attorney were somehow “over the top” in being legally and fiscally prudent, eh?

          That sounds a great deal just like the attitudes of most members of the Oak Harbor City Council just a few months ago, too, until they came to the realization that they were sadly mistaken that they could ignore the Second Amendment Foundation.

          Oh wait, I should have said: most of the City Council was perfectly okay with risking a lawsuit by the Second Amendment Foundation as long as it was only the public and the City of Oak Harbor who were at financial risk, but they had a huge turnabout in their attitudes and actions when they realized that they themselves might personally be at financial risk as individuals:

          “Oak Harbor City Council overturns gun ban”
          http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Hundreds-turn-out-to-oppose-Oak-Harbor-gun-ban-189941801.html

          This is yet another example of the City Council not treating other people’s money and resources with the same prudence and care they would afford themselves personally.

          1. avatar

            “the Mayor and City Attorney were somehow “over the top” in being legally and fiscally prudent, eh?”

            This was really the gist of Attorney Skinners arguement to the people at the council meeting. It is no wonder our city seems to get itself into legal entanglements, we have a majority of the council that could care less about being “legally and fiscally prudent” it is all about political manuevering and posturing.

  5. avatar

    The WNT’s story on this issue became:

    “Unexpected prayer policy tabled by Oak Harbor council”
    http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/207000161.html

    From that article on this issue:

    “Tim Geist, a pastor at Bible Baptist Church, said that the city attorney wouldn’t have written the policy had he first read the Ninth Circuit ruling.

    Geist suggested that either the offending paragraph be deleted, or the entire matter tabled indefinitely “in the name of religious freedom.””

    Offending paragraph?

    Religious freedom?

    Seriously?

    This policy would not have stopped prayers at City Council meetings – it would have preserved that tradition – , nor would it have had anything to do with anything that went on outside of City Council meetings, but it could have done some good in potentially preventing a costly lawsuit.

    The fact is: there’s absolutely NO legal requirement to HAVE any type of opening prayer at things like a City Council meeting.

    It’s inconceivable to me that people who are 100% free to worship in pretty much whatever manner they believe in in this country fail to see where they must also be able to weigh that freedom with the responsibility to protect the public from being sued by fanatical groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

    Moreover, for those who ascribe to one of the monotheistic religions, arguing over whether or not you are allowed specifically to invoke a specific name of what you have decided God’s name to be or to invoke the specific name of one of his prophets at a Governmental functions seems like semantics, since God is God.

    If nutty groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not exist, this likely would not be an issue at all.

    But they do exist, and they have the same 1st Amendment Rights as the rest of us, as frustrating as it can be sometimes to uphold those ideals while also upholding religious freedom.

    But what’s still so disappointing in all of this is the performance of the majority of the Oak Harbor City Council.

    For example:

    ““We took a pretty good beating out there,” Councilman Joel Servatius said after the meeting. “I feel like we were ambushed.””

    Ambushed?

    Seriously?

    Did he even READ the City Council reading packet over the weekend before the meeting?

    Appointing Joel Servatius to the City Council has got to be one the WORST decisions the City Council has ever made.

    Another example:

    “Hizon said she didn’t want to take up the discussion because of the length of the council’s agenda and because she wasn’t fully prepared. ”

    She wasn’t fully prepared?

    The agenda was too long?

    Seriously?

    She got the reading packet on Friday. She does not have a full time job.

    What was she doing since she was evidently NOT preparing to perform her duties as an elected City Council member?

    More likely, Hizon’s Facebook entry is more to her real way of bogus-thinking:

    “It was “horse radish” (haha) that it even appeared on the agenda in the first place, having already been addressed last year”.”

    The WNT should have used that quote in their article: the public deserves to know what their City Council members really think and say – especially when they think only their Faceboook friends are reading.

    1. avatar

      Joel Servatius and Tara Hizon were not prepared? It is not about whether they were prepared or not it is whether or not they can hold the Oak Harbor City Council hostage to their drama.

      If research was needed they could have gone to the MRSC ( Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington) which is an organization that does of research on municipal, state and county issues.

      In 2 minutes they would have found the below article on invocations and the analyses and recommendations of the MRSC:

      http://www.mrsc.org/focus/ccadvisor/cca0412.aspx

      Oak Harbor currently has no policy on invocations. None. Instead of doing their job as members of the city Council which is to hear the concerns of the city attorney, city administrator and mayor these members of the council claim they were “ambushed” and removed the item from the agenda.

      So what do we have? A lack of a city policy that could lead the city into a lawsuit. Drama and laziness was more important than doing the right thing.

      This council and council members like Tara Hizon and Joel Servatius are doing the city of Oak Harbor no favors and need to be removed from the council. They need to be replaced by those that uphold their duty to the citizens and city without the never ending drama that these people bring.

      1. avatar

        Seriously, the MRSC as a resource for City Council members is definitely not some sort of “big secret” among only a select few elected officials.

        When folks like Tara Hizon and Joel Servatius try to pretend that this issue was “horse radish” (Hizon) or that they were “ambushed” (Servatius), it demonstrates very clearly that they have an agenda OTHER than doing the people’s business in a responsible manner.

        “Drama and laziness was more important than doing the right thing.”

        Seems like an astute conclusion, based on the facts.

        “They need to be replaced”.

        That should be obvious to most anyone who has been paying attention to their antics.

        1. avatar

          “They need to be replaced”.

          And that is why I included the very apt citizens comments at the end of the above video.

          Many of our council truely believe that the citizens of Oak Harbor are not watching and they can do what they want without any harmful effects.

          I do not believe the citizens of Oak Harbor are so ignorant they will continue to support these people as council members.

  6. avatar

    “Tim” seems maybe to have gotten ahead of himself when he wrote:

    “The Supreme Court is currently refusing to take any cases specific to praying “in Jesus’ Name.””

    A related article in the NY Times:

    Title: “Justices Take Case on Prayer at Town Board Meetings

    The opening paragraphs:

    “The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether a town board in upstate New York violated the First Amendment by starting its sessions with a prayer.

    The case comes from Greece, a town near Rochester. For more than a decade starting in 1999, the town board began its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.” Town officials said that members of all faiths and atheists were welcome to give the opening prayer.”

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