Opinion

The most powerful people in Federal Way | Andy Hobbs

Who are the most powerful people in Federal Way? The people who vote.

In his latest attempt to transform local government, resident Roy Parke has launched a petition that may result in term limits for Federal Way’s city council members and mayor. The petition resembles Parke’s past effort to install an elected mayor — an effort that finally succeeded in 2009, thanks to a professional campaign backed by City Councilman Jim Ferrell.

The campaign demonstrated the power of a citizen-led initiative. The issue gave people a reason to vote, regardless of whether they supported the change in government. Now that the dust has settled, Federal Way voters look forward to electing the city’s top leader for the first time in November.

Who is responsible for electing Federal Way’s leaders? The people who vote — and in a way, the people who don’t vote.

Parke said longtime incumbents have discouraged new candidates and fresh ideas. He is motivated to “make this city, our government, more accountable to the people.”

If enough signatures are gathered for the term limits petition by the October deadline, the measure will go on a special election ballot in February.

The cost for a special election is shared among participating cities, and Federal Way could potentially pay $100,000 or more. Consider the outrage if an elected official were responsible for this oversight. If “the people” hold government accountable, then who holds “the people” accountable? The people who vote — or in this case, the people who don’t sign that petition.

This is not a statement for or against the petition, but rather a plea to do it right. Citizen initiatives play a critical role in democracy at the local and state levels. Pass or fail, these initiatives open the public’s eyes to shortcomings and solutions that may not have surfaced otherwise. Love him or hate him, even initiative guru Tim Eyman nudges voters into paying closer attention to state government, for better or worse. Eyman treats each initiative like it’s the last professional campaign on Earth, complete with paid signature gatherers and a mastery of media manipulation. Voters take these initiatives seriously because they are given a reason to vote.

Federal Way’s elected mayor initiative may have divided voters, but it also showed people what was possible.

Have voters in Federal Way given much thought to term limits before this recent petition was started? Probably not. Who will give the people a reason to support or oppose term limits? The people who vote.

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