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Voters reject mayor-council proposal

Elisabeth and Luke Hardison, together with other people supporting the elected mayor proposal, reminded drivers to vote Feb. 19 at the corner of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South. - Aileen Charleston/The Mirror
Elisabeth and Luke Hardison, together with other people supporting the elected mayor proposal, reminded drivers to vote Feb. 19 at the corner of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South.
— image credit: Aileen Charleston/The Mirror

From Mirror staff reports

Federal Way will maintain its current form of government.

As of press time Feb. 21, about 53 percent (4,951) voted against the adoption of a mayor-council form of government in Federal Way, with 4,330 (about 47 percent) voting in favor of a mayor-council government.

Results are not official until certified March 5, according to the King County Elections Web site.

Under the proposed change, an elected mayor would replace Federal Way’s city manager and ultimately take on that position’s duties.

The push for an elected mayor started this past summer when Federal Way resident Roy Parke, president of Accountability Comes to Town (ACT), began circulating a petition and collecting signatures from those who support a change in the city’s governmental structure.

Parke was disappointed with the Feb. 19 election results, but was glad to see a vote that ended up closer than expected. Parke said he plans to pursue the change again.

“Many of us still believe as strongly as ever that Federal Way would be a better place if we had a strong mayor form of government. The fight will go on,” Parke said on Wednesday. “Next time, we hope we can provide more information that would allow more voters to break from the status quo.”

ACT submitted a petition to King County Elections and Federal Way on July 30. Roughly 3,200 signatures were collected. King County Elections verified, on Sept. 20, that 2,207 of the petition’s signatures were of registered voters residing in Federal Way.

State law required 10 percent, or 1,825, valid signatures be collected in order to place the elected mayor measure on a special election ballot.

Currently, Federal Way has a city council-city manager form of government. The seven city council members are elected by Federal Way voters. The members then choose among their ranks a person to serve a two-year term as mayor, thus representing the city and leading city council meetings.

In January, city council member Jack Dovey was appointed as Federal Way’s new mayor.

The council also hires the city manager, who plays a role similar to a CEO. This person is generally qualified for the position and has experience managing budgets and staff. The council can fire the manager at any time if he or she is not performing the job adequately.

Federal Way has been governed this way since its incorporation in 1990. The proposal to change the structure hit an emotional nerve among many residents who want to elect the mayor and create a central figurehead for government.

However, the proposal mobilized longtime residents who have followed the city’s progress over the years and agree with the city’s present direction. Another argument by the opposition was that a city manager ensures professional management, and that voters can elect all seven city council members.

Barbara Reid, who led the opposition group Federal Way Works, is pleased by the election outcome, but had hoped to see a higher turnout by voters.

“I felt serious about protecting our community,” Reid said. “We got out there and we did what we needed to do to inform people.”

Thousands of dollars were spent by both sides in an effort to win. A record of expenditures for ACT and Federal Way Works can be found at the Public Disclosure Commission Web site, http://hera.pdc.wa.gov.

In addition, this item on the ballot cost taxpayers at least $50,000, City Attorney Pat Richardson said. King County estimates the cost for the special election would have been approximately $147,000 if the elected mayor issue were the only thing placed on the ballot.

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For updated election information, visit http://www.metrokc.gov/elections/

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