In the days after making an emergency proclamation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler issued a series of executive orders that represented a rapidly escalating response to a growing crisis that is different in many ways from anything this nation has ever experienced.
The most sweeping was also the most recent, the Wednesday, March 25, order to close hotels and commercial lodging — with a few exceptions — that took effect at 3 p.m. Friday.
Meeting in emergency session Friday afternoon, but remotely in order to observe the governor’s stay in place order, the Ocean Shores City Council approved the emergency proclamation and all executive orders. All were approved by 7-0 votes except the order that included a curfew from 12 midnight to 5 a.m. Susan Conniry and Frank Elduen voted no, so the vote was 5-2 in favor of that order.
Dingler’s first order came Monday about an hour after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Washingtonians to “Stay Home Stay Safe.” The mayor’s order closed all of the city’s beach access roads, public restrooms, public and private recreational facilities and gathering areas at city parks. It also established a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, which sparked a few complaints on social media.
The mayor and several city officials had spent the weekend developing what could be described as a multi-faceted, semi-shutdown order, which was put on hold when Inslee’s press conference was announced.
Her first two orders — issued on March 17 and 20 — suspended late payment fees on past-due city water utility bills, then temporarily halted utility shutoffs and allowed reestablishment of service to customers whose service has been recently terminated.
All of these orders contained a provision that they be approved by the Ocean Shores City Council, prompting Dingler to call that body into an Emergency/Special meeting at 1 p.m. Friday. It was the city’s first effort at a virtual council meeting, held by phone and online connections, and available live through the city’s website, but with video limited to a composite image of council members and city officials.
The only people expected to be present in the traditional council meeting room at the Ocean Shores Convention Center were City Clerk Sara Dawson, Convention Center Operations Manager George Lee, volunteers from local media KOSW Radio, North Beach Community TV and NorthBeachNOW.co, and this reporter.
Dingler said the meeting would begin with City Attorney Brent Dille explaining that, with regard to the mayor’s emergency declaration and five executive orders, council may discuss and ask questions, etc., but its power is ultimately limited to approval or rejection of each order as written. If an order is rejected, the mayor could modify it and resubmit it during the meeting.
The council then had to approve a set of rules for conducting a virtual meeting, before dealing with the mayor’s proclamation and orders. No other business was on the agenda.
Ocean Shores was among tourist destinations around the state and down the Pacific coast that saw an apparent influx of visitors last weekend, prompting a variety of public cries for governments at all levels to take action to further restrict crowds and gatherings. Westport and Long Beach had already declared some restrictions, as had some towns in coastal Oregon.
Thursday, Dingler recorded a 36-minute video, which is available online at the www.NorthBeachNOW.com website, during which she explained her executive orders and answered several questions she and other city officials have been receiving. She also did a lengthy interview on the same topics, which can be heard at www.KOSWradio.com.