It was as revolting as it was shortsighted, the politically motivated stampede by the Washington City Council to kill an annexation program that had been in the works for more than a year. The Planning and Zoning Commission, which was conducting the study and which had been fair, considerate and open to public input, was given a knockout punch as to annexation by six members of the council. Two council members voted against the motion to kill the annexation. Joe Holtmeier and Connie Groff refused to be stampeded by the emotional plea by outgoing Councilman Tim Brinker to kill annexation.
What the council did and the way it did it has led to all kinds of speculation as to the motive behind this surprise act. It was a planned move. Annexation was not on the council’s agenda for the Dec. 17 meeting. However, opponents were advised that there would be action to kill the annexation plan and were in attendance. Did members of the council meet with the opponents of annexation in a secret meeting prior to the council meeting? Or were just some members of the council involved in a secret meeting? Either situation may be a Sunshine Law violation. It was so obvious that it was a planned move since opponents showed up at the meeting.
Another question that has arisen is, were the six members who voted to kill annexation unable to take the “heat” generated by opponents of annexation? Did they take the easy way out? Do they lack the courage to do what is in the best interests of the city?
Failure to recognize the hard work by members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and city officials to present to voters a reasonable annexation plan, after diligently seeking public input, is failure by six council members to live up to the responsibilities that the office they hold requires. They should be looking to the city’s future well-being rather than embracing private agendas and bowing to private interests. There is a big picture about the city’s future that every council person should be focused on, and not the selfish interests of a few.
The Planning and Zoning Commission was looking to the future and living up to its obligation to plan for the future in its work on annexation. The council’s action in not giving voters an opportunity to cast ballots on annexation is repugnant.
Mayor Sandy Lucy offers no excuses in being caught off guard by Brinker’s action. She said she should have stated her opposition to the motion to kill annexation. She believes in annexation and accepts responsibility for not speaking up when Brinker moved to kill annexation. She added that she deserves the criticism directed at her for her inaction.
There is a distasteful political odor to this situation. Annexation should not be discarded. It can be revived and should be. Is there the courage to do it?
The two members who voted against the motion showed courage and recognition of the need for proper planning for the future.