Editorial | Staying off the political hayride | Dennis Box

The first few months back at the Courier-Herald have been interesting, fun and at times wacky.

That’s the Enumclaw we know and love… and always has been.

Of all the stories I have been associated with during the last decade or so, some of the most unusual and interesting have been in Enumclaw.

The political intrigue and whisper campaigns haven’t changed much over the years, just those doing the whispering… and sometimes yelling.

There is one story rolling around town that I have refused to get involved with.

The issue centers on the commissioners for Fire District No. 28.

Residents of Enumclaw voted to annex into the fire district in November 2010, ending city control of the Enumclaw Fire Department and turning it over to the district.

There have been a flurry of allegations, some in letters and Facebook posts, concerning a trailer or modular home used by the district. Some of the allegations have intimated corruption or criminal intent.

The issue was cited by the state auditor in a finding as a conflict of interest because the modular home belonged to the spouse of a commissioner. The auditor’s finding was dated September 2010 and released in December 2010. An audit finding is not a criminal finding, nor were charges ever considered.

This kind of stuff looks bad and politically it can be a land mine.

To leap from making questionable political judgments by a commissioners who are clearly not familiar with governing, to allegations of corruption running through the land is a political hayride this paper will not join.

This auditor’s report has been public for nearly two years at the auditor’s website, http://www.sao.wa.gov/en/audits/pages/search/auditreportsearch.aspx

It is not Watergate moved into Enumclaw.

It is important and essential that a paper not become a platform for anyone to take a political agenda and turn it into a witch hunt. It is a common practice in the political theater of today, but this paper will not become party to such theatrics.

There are certainly times when I publish stories about both governments and political action groups that make everyone line up for my head.

My only request is all those who are calling for my head make a nice, neat line, because it is long.

My analysis thus far concerning the fire district is the commissioners are on a steep learning curve. It doesn’t happen overnight. There is no 12-step program for commissioners learning to govern. Most enter these jobs declaring they are not politicians and find out very quickly they are sitting in a political hot seat with no ice in reach.

The commission has made some mistakes, but I see no reason to make criminal allegations against these folks, and this paper will not allow that. And I don’t care who likes or dislikes that position.

Here is the situation as I have analyzed it.

• The fire department will not be returning to the city. A public vote settled that issue and I don’t expect it to be overturned. The district is a better deal for services and the city does not have the cash to deal with a fire department. It couldn’t even pay for a library. It is a much better system and more transparent for the fire district to have its own taxing district.

• From all I have found, the city of Enumclaw had nothing to do with the issue surrounding the modular home. That is another unfounded allegation floating through the rumor mill. That was a fire district issue that has been clearly aired in public. The auditor continues to follow the district’s compliance as will this publication.

• To make statements that union firefighters should not be on the commission may sound reasonable, until the logic is followed through. If you allow someone to say the public cannot vote for a person because he or she belongs to a union, then what stops the next person from being banned from the ballot because of beliefs about sex, or religion, or skin color, or being the editor of a community newspaper?

Political agendas and actions abound in our communities and country. Our system needs those activities and these activists whether we agree with them, like them or can’t stand them. Speech from all is essential for our system to work.

The job of a newspaper – as it is with all citizens – is to listen carefully, consider the motivation of all sides and ask questions, whether your buddies like it or not.

If someone gets mad at you just blame it on that darn editor at the newspaper.  That’s what I do, anyway.