Opinion

What's wrong with a planner being biased?

New Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, in the weeks following his election last November, considered resigning from his position as a member of the Kitsap County Planning Commission. And for the sake of appearances at least, we’re glad both he and Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel, who had appointed him to the board in the the first place, took the time to question whether his holding both jobs might present a conflict of interest.

But as a practical matter, common sense should have dictated there was never any conflict and no reason for Coppola to resign from the Planning Commission, let alone consider not serving as its charman, as he had planned to do this year.

It’s a pity fellow Planning Commissioner Jim Sommerhaus-er is letting his own naked partisanship blind him to that simple fact in his recent attacks on Coppola’s decision.

By way of explanation, the Planning Commission is a volunteer board whose members study and make recommendations to the county commissioners about land-use issues. That the board’s views do not have the force of law should be fairly obvious given the number of times in recent years the county commissioners have disregarded them.

In any case, by definition the Kitsap County Planning Commission deals exclusively with county issues. The city of Port Orchard has its own planning advisers to deal with land-use questions within its boundaries. Consequently, it’s hard to see how Coppola’s views on county matters would have been compromised by his position in Port Orchard.

Moreover, even if Coppola does allow his local biases to affect his decisions as a county planning commissioner, why should that be a problem? Isn’t the whole point of having planning commissioners appointed by the county commissioner representing that region of the county to make sure local interests are protected?

Simply put, it seems to us Coppola’s job on the commision is to advance the interests of Kitsap County as a whole, but with an eye toward doing the right thing for his — and Angel’s — constituents here in South Kitsap.

To that end, the only reason why Coppola’s having the official title of Port Orchard mayor should disqualify him from simultaneously representing us in his county post would be to preserve the myth that the planning commissioners don’t bring their biases to the job regardless of what they do during regular business hours.

Whatever Sommerhauser’s day job might be, it’s obvious he has his own political, personal and community biases, and that they’re consistent with those of the county commissioner at whose pleasure he serves — and that they inform his decisions as a planning commissioner.

And rightfully so. But by the same token, there’s nothing wrong with Coppola bringing his biases to his job, either.

The only difference seems to be that Coppola’s agenda is on view for all to see, while Sommerhauser would have you believe he doesn’t have one.

Of the two options, we prefer Coppola’s transparent honesty to Sommerhauser’s deceptive indignation.

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