Island County Commissioner Emerson prepares ‘minority report’
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
August 25, 2011 · Updated 11:19 AM
Two Island County commissioners’ disagreement over a Powerpoint presentation began as dueling press releases and then spilled over into bickering at the commissioners’ meeting Monday afternoon.
The dispute over budget-related statistics came the day before the county’s 2012 budget workshops began and may foreshadow possible conflicts between the commissioners over how the county should spend money.
Commissioner Kelly Emerson started the dispute over the weekend with a press release entitled “Commissioner Emerson Rebukes Democrat’s ‘State of the County.’”
Emerson, the sole Republican on the board, objected to her photo being included in a slide presentation about the county’s budget that was posted on the county’s website. The presentation lists the services the county provides and includes budget and staffing information, focusing on cuts that have been made.
While she doesn’t say there’s anything inaccurate about the presentation, she branded it as the “Majority prepared Powerpoint” and said she began working to produce a minority report.
“I feel the presentation inadequately informs the viewer,” she quoted herself in her press release. “It focuses on mainly one fund, doesn’t show the relationship between labor cuts and labor costs and offers no solutions.”
In response, Commissioner Angie Homola sent out a press release Monday explaining that she compiled the Powerpoint presentation in late 2009 in response to the budget crisis and has periodically updated it to depict the latest numbers.
“The county is in hunker down mode and has been for three years. As we embark on the 2012 budget process we do so with uncertainty about federal or state funding cuts and little prospect for a measurable rebound. Our goal will be to find ways to continue serving the citizens of Island County,” Homola wrote.
Later, Homola sent out a second press release with a copy of her Powerpoint presentation; Emerson’s photo was removed and replaced with the words, “Respectfully removed as requested by Commissioner Emerson with her expressed objection to this presentation.”
Then during the Monday afternoon meeting, Commissioner Helen Price Johnson brought up Emerson’s press release.
“We have really tough issues to address and I would hope we could focus on those and not nitpick fights that have no purpose,” she said.
Emerson responded by thanking Homola for taking her photos off the presentation, but then criticized her for including the photo in the first place. She said the inclusion of her photo created the illusion that she agreed with the document, causing her to “suffer quite a bit of grief” from her supporters. She said some of the information in the presentation was “very educational,” but overall it was “very inadequate.”
Ironically, Emerson also said it was inappropriate to use staff time to create the document, though she said she’s working with staff members to create her own “minority report.”
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.