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Petition seeks right to pick mayor

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

As it stands now, Federal Way’s form of government gives the city council, not the public, the right to choose who will serve as the city’s mayor.

At least one resident thinks that should change.

At the June 6 city council meeting, Frosty Hardison used his citizen comment time to announce a petition to change the city’s form of government from its current council-manager system to one where residents elect the mayor.

Hardison said after more than a year of frequently attending city council meetings, he has seen a need for more representation of private citizens.

“We’re being, frankly, overlooked,” he said.

The petition, he said, is an attempt to install a checks-and-balances system in the city similar to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.

“In Federal Way, you don’t have that executive branch. You have a glorified council member,” he said, referring to the fact that the mayor is a member of the city council appointed by fellow council members.

Mayors in council-manager cities typically preside over meetings and serve as the head of the city for ceremonial purposes, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington.

The day-to-day operations are left to the city manager. The MRSC Web site states that while city managers are not elected by residents, they are also not bound to any specific time period or term and can be removed at any time.

The city is currently in the process of selecting its next city manager.

The problem, Hardison said, is that too many times, decisions seem to be made in closed committees without enough citizen representation.

Hardison also referred to the recent controversy surrounding a proposal to relocate the 320th Street branch library.

In 2005, then-Mayor Dean McColgan signed a letter to the King County Library System asking the board to consider moving the branch to a location near the Federal Way Transit Center.

“On behalf of the City of Federal Way, I would like to offer the city’s support and encouragement to your consideration of potential development of a new library at the Sound Transit site in our City Center,” the Oct. 17, 2005, letter stated.

The proposed move drew an overwhelmingly negative response from residents, and the King County Library System ultimately withdrew its consideration of the transit center site.

“If we’re going to have a mayor that’s going to write a letter to the King County Library System saying we would like to entertain moving options,” Hardison said, “we would like a mayor representing us.”

Current Mayor Mike Park said he hasn’t seen enough information regarding the petition to take a stance on which form of government would be best for the city.

“I don’t have any preference at this moment,” Park said. “I need to take a look at it.”

So far, Hardison said he’s collected about 400 signatures, adding that volunteers are gearing up to collect more signatures at several spots throughout the city, including popular shopping centers.

Churchgoers and other large organizations have shown support so far, he said.

The goal is to get 1,800 signatures, and Hardison said that shouldn’t take much longer.

“I’m quite sure we’ll have it by probably the end of June,” he said. “Things are looking good.”

According to RCW 35A.06.040, which deals with abandoning a city’s current form of government, Hardison’s petition must be signed off by the King County auditor with valid signatures equal to no less than 10 percent of the city’s voter turnout in the last general election.

If the petition passes that hurdle, a ballot item on the measure will go before voters.

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