Editorial: Dearborn makes a poor debut

Island County’s land use attorney Keith Dearborn flopped in his recent public debut when he told a crowd of citizens that certain environmentalists have “burned their bridges” in Coupeville.

Telling citizens that their voices will not be heard is not in Dearborn’s job description. His job is to lead the county’s critical areas update, an issue of importance to both environmentalists and property owners.

Dearborn’s target was obviously the Whidbey Environmental Action Network. In its early days, WEAN was Whidbey island’s wild-eyed environment a group, pressing relentlessly for stricter enviornmental protections. Its leaders’ abrasive style rankled the county commissioners and Dearborn as they worked on the comprehensive plan. Some of WEAN’s members and sympathizers have been rude at times and they have insinuated self-serving motives for those officials who want fewer restrictions on property rights.

Without WEAN, however, the island’s environmental protections would be more lax than they are today. And in recent years, WEAN’s board of directors has broadened to represent a larger segment of society. It’s still a hard-nosed group, but better funded and more mainstream. Dearborn shouldn’t be picking fights with this or any other group of citizens in Island County.

The county commissioners should make it clear to the public that Dearborn wasn’t speaking for them when he suggested the views of some citizens will be ignored in Coupeville. Vigorous discourse should be encouraged, even at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings.

And Mr. Dearborn should be told to stick to his job or consider seeking work in some more sedate community.

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