Sullivan leads pledge at county board meeting; former planning chair questions replacement decision
By Allison Arthur, Leader Staff Writer
Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan led the Pledge of Allegiance on Monday morning, a week after he said he didn't think it was necessary to say it routinely.
Sullivan said he had a change of heart and had thought about it more since Security Services Northwest Inc. President Joe D'Amico brought it up out of the blue last week and surprised commissioners by saying it during a public comment period.
Sullivan read a statement Monday that acknowledged the war in Iraq and the debt owed to the "men and women in our armed forces and their families, a debt owed both by those who support this war and those whose efforts have failed to prevent or end this war.
"I'd like to take a moment at the beginning of each regularly scheduled meeting to say the Pledge of Allegiance, with the voluntary participation of anyone else in attendance, in acknowledgment of their ongoing sacrifice," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said later that he might say the pledge two more times on Monday, once at the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce noon meeting and again if he attended the Port Townsend City Council meeting.
Saying it often doesn't make one more patriotic, he said.
Sullivan also acknowledged that the other two commissioners, Phil Johnson and John Austin, are veterans.
Past county commissioners stopped saying the pledge some years ago early in the morning, he said. Sullivan said that just because they stopped and the new board started saying the pledge didn't mean the new board is more patriotic than the previous board.
Sullivan's comments published in The Leader last week drew fire from several people, including Al Frank, who scolded Sullivan for saying that he didn't feel a need to say the pledge more than once. Frank likened it to saying "I love you" to one's wife only once.
Sullivan said he stands by what he said last week. He said that a person of integrity who takes an oath should be counted on to abide by the oath.
Sullivan said he tells his wife he loves her all the time. Sullivan also noted that people don't take marriage vows daily either.
Several people also took time to comment on the public comment period, a half-hour block of time the commissioners set aside each week to hear whatever people want to say on any issue.
Richard Wojt, formerly a Democratic county commissioner, read a letter questioning whether the period has "morphed" over the years. He explained that the original idea was for the public to comment on items that were going to be discussed and acted on during the meeting
"It worked well for the board for eight years, before posturing began to creep into the process," Wojt wrote. "It now appears that the public comment is a forum for soapboxing, paranoia and carrying out a plan to create a negative view of the board's motives and honesty."
Wojt asked that the board stop allowing the public comment period to be used as a soapbox and find a new way to get public input, one that offers solutions to a given problem.
D'Amico thanked Sullivan for instituting the pledge. He also said he was not trying to grandstand last week when he led the pledge during the public comment period.
Jim Hagen, former chairman of the Jefferson County Planning Commission, questioned why, during deliberations last Friday on replacing him and planning commission member Dennis Schultz, commissioners did not mention the 2,500 hours of volunteer service that he and Schultz had given the county.
Mike Belenski said he's been coming to meetings for 10 years and he questions why all of a sudden he's being accused of creating "theater" at board meetings.
"I haven't been doing anything different than I've done for 10 years," he said, asking why he's been told he belongs under a "circus tent" now when a year ago he was applauded for being one of 12 guardians of open government.
(Contact Allison Arthur at email@example.com.)