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Island County commissioners battle it out over War of 1812

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson holds up a flag in connection with the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 as Commissioner Helen Price Johnson looks on. Emerson, who will be participating in a reenactment of the battle on the Brig. Lawrence, proposed a resolution to honor the conflict’s bicentennial but ended up abstaining from a final vote on the issue.  - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson holds up a flag in connection with the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 as Commissioner Helen Price Johnson looks on. Emerson, who will be participating in a reenactment of the battle on the Brig. Lawrence, proposed a resolution to honor the conflict’s bicentennial but ended up abstaining from a final vote on the issue.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

The Island County Commissioners have approved a resolution honoring the War of 1812 bicentennial, but in an unexpected and somewhat confusing chain of events, the measure was passed without the support of its sponsor.

The resolution was originally proposed by Tea Party Commissioner Kelly Emerson during the board’s regular Monday meeting, but the proposal was adopted by Democratic commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Angie Homola in a 2-0 vote.

Emerson abstained, which is neither a yea or nay vote.

However, that vote was taken after a meeting earlier that same morning in which Emerson’s original motion failed to carry due to abstentions from Price Johnson and Homola.

Emerson’s resolution proclaimed “June 18, 2012, through mid-February, 2015 the bicentennial of the War of 1812.” The document talked about the war that resulted in the burning of the White House and how it shattered the perception of an invincible British Navy.

It also mentioned the events leading up to the conflict, such as the American Revolution. Emerson said the “successful revolution led to the concept of manifest destiny and the rapid expansion of the American frontier.”

“I celebrate this bicentennial because I recognize what it took uniting us in an effort to secure a safe and prosperous future for our posterity,” Emerson said.

“Let us not focus on what divides us but focus on what unites us; our American exceptionalism,” she said. “It was 200 years ago today that the United States went to war to ensure the freedom of the seas ... so I move for approval and let the celebrations begin.”

But, like in 1812, they had a rocky start. Emerson’s proposal did receive a second from Price Johnson but she said she had a different understanding of the war, saying she believed the conflict might have been avoided through diplomacy.

Price Johnson emphasized that while she was not against the resolution, she would not support it either.

“I know this is an important resolution and you’ve put a lot of work into it so I’ll just be abstaining from the vote,” Price Johnson said.

Homola said she wanted to recognize the nation’s wars and the sacrifices of soldiers but said she is “not a history buff” and that there are areas in the resolution that she couldn’t speak to.

“I planned to abstain as well,” Homola said.

At the time, it was unclear whether the motion would carry forward with just one vote, though Emerson made it clear she believed measures can only be approved with a majority.

“Way to go ladies,” Emerson said.

It turned out she was correct and the issue was revisited later that morning during a break before another meeting. According to Price Johnson, this time she and Homola approved the resolution but only after a correction was made and certain language, such as the mention of manifest destiny, was removed.

Emerson, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning, abstained.

 

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