EDITORIAL | Emerson, it’s time to give up the fight

Well, here we go again.

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson has, for the second time in three years, filed a lawsuit against the planning department concerning the same tired issue — the dispute over a building permit.

How tiresome, how unfortunate and how embarrassing that the fires of this seemingly endless debate have again been lit under the banner of righteousness.

This long-drawn-out controversy began in 2010 during Emerson’s race to unseat former District 3 Democrat commissioner John Dean. Word got out that Emerson and her husband, Kenneth, were building a deck at their Camano Island home without a county permit.

It became a campaign issue and Emerson was quick to cast the blame on Dean, former county planning director Bob Pederson and others. The Emersons even took them to court, but a Superior Court judge did not see it their way.

But the debate didn’t end there. Instead, the Emersons again shouted their war cry and battled it out with the county — that time over the existence of an alleged wetland on the property — until earlier this year when it appeared peace had finally been won.

It came after Pederson ended the stalemate by ordering the Emersons to pay $37,000 in fines or face the prospects of a lien on their property. It was one of Pederson’s last acts as planning director before he resigned.

The county, which had to get special legal representation from Snohomish County due to conflict of interest issues, brokered a deal with the Emersons’ lawyers where the couple would only have to pay a fraction of the original fine — $5,000, but only after the county returned $2,000 in filing fees.

While the details of the ongoing dispute are somewhat complicated, having to do with wetland requirements, the  Emersons’ argument is based in an idea that government has overstepped, that its power and might has inexcusably infringed on their constitutional rights.

There are times when people must stick to their ideals and fight for what they believe, but that time has long since passed. The issue has been debated in court, by lawyers in private discussion, and by county and state regulators, and none but a few paid consultants and a handful of constituents have sided with the Emersons.

By continuing the argument with another lawsuit, the Emersons aren’t being the self-sacrificing soldiers of liberty they fancy themselves as, but more like children who are throwing a tantrum because they aren’t getting their way.

Emerson was elected by the people to lead the county, not sue it, and the time has come to end this issue once and for all. Put aside your righteousness, commissioner, and show your constituents what it really means to lead by example.

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