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Mayor proposal: Dollars and sense

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Politics can sometimes boil down to whoever has the most money to spend in support of a candidate or issue — but money doesn’t always guarantee a win.

With less than one month for supporters and opponents of a strong elected mayor to continue public education and fundraising efforts, the outcome of the elected mayor ballot initiative is hard to predict.

Federal Way Works, in support of the current council-manager form of city government, has raised nearly $4,800 more than Accountability Comes to Town (ACT), the group in support of an elected mayor. But public education may prove an obstacle for the group.

ACT began collecting monetary contributions in support of its viewpoint in October. Federal Way resident and ACT founder Roy Parke took out four loans, totaling $3,800, between Oct. 8 and Dec. 10, according to the Public Disclosure Commission Web site at http://hera.pdc.wa.gov.

Some of this money was used to fund a Nov. 18 forum on the elected mayor issue. There, the pros and cons of an elected strong mayor were presented by Ephrata City Administrator Wes Crago.

ACT has continued to collect funds in support of an elected mayor since that time, but Federal Way citizens are not jumping to donate to the cause. The group’s most recent donation was received on Jan. 14 by Northwest Equipment Sales Inc. in the amount of $500. Prior to this, the last contribution made, that did not come from Parke or his company, Parke Bros. Trucking, was submitted on Dec. 12, according to the same Web site. To date ACT has reported collecting $8,520 in monetary contributions and loans.

With the exception of three contributions — one from a Seattle resident, another from a King County Deputy Prosecutor and the last from Casey and Wendy Treat, owners of Christian Faith Center — monetary contributions have come from Parke and local businesses.

The organization has reported spending nearly $4,877 total on supplies, according to the Web site. A filing cabinet, mailing labels, postcards and mailers are among the list of items generated from the expenditures.

Federal Way Works began its campaign in mid-November when $600 cash on hand was secured, according to the Public Disclosure Commission Web site. Since that time, donations have arrived consistently, all but one of them coming from Federal Way citizens.

On Jan. 12, International City/County Management Association contributed the largest donation to Federal Way Works — an $8,000 grant, according to the Web site.

“They are of course interested in maintaining the council-manager form of government,” Federal Way Works treasurer Ed Opstad said.

The group contacted ICMA and requested the money in December, he said. To date, Federal Way Works has reported collecting $13,290 in monetary contributions. Expenditures have not been documented with the Public Disclosure Commission. However, materials such as mailers and 300 signs have been distributed in Federal Way, Opstad said.

The number of supporters, including State Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-30th District, and Rep. Skip Priest, R-30th District, as well as contributors to Federal Way Works outnumbers that of ACT. But city council members and legislators are not lobbying for funds on behalf of Federal Way Works, Opstad said. The organization has a board that established a $16,000 budget for the special election, he said.

“We figured out how much money we needed and we went out to get it,” Opstad said.

Though Federal Way Works has a funding advantage, the battle it faces is in explaining the benefits of not having an elected mayor. The public’s initial reaction to learning about the issue is to support an elected mayor because it initially sounds appealing, Opstad said.

Federal Way Works must educate residents on how a mayor-council form of government would differ from the current council-manager form. The group must also stimulate the public to evaluate the city’s current political standings and ask themselves who would be qualified to serve as an elected mayor, Opstad said.

“It’s a continuing effort to get the information out,” he said.

It could be that neither ACT nor Federal Way Works has an overall advantage over each other. Each has its strong attributes and its weak ones.

The results of Feb. 19 may come as a surprise to all those following the issue, including Federal Way’s current city manager, Neal Beets, who is eagerly awaiting the date and trying to remind himself and his family that all they can do is wait and see what happens, he said.

“I’ll be watching with as much interest, or more interest, as everybody else,” Beets said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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