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Political maneuvering at City Hall | Bob Roegner
In some cities, the battle to be the leader of the city council can be a nice polite affair, or may be rotated among the council members so that everyone gets a chance.
In other cities, it can provide visibility to internal differences on policy or strained personal relationships. It doesn’t matter whether it is the ceremonial mayor in a council-manager form of government, or the council president\mayor pro-tem\deputy mayor title that the council leader gets in the strong mayor form of government.
Most council members want the title and the honor — although it may be for different reasons.
The winner receives the title, local and regional influence and the power to appoint the chairs and members of the council committees that provide oversight to the city administration. And it looks pretty good on either a professional or political resume.
In one city north of Federal Way, the new mayor was elected in a 5-2 vote with some less-than-flattering comments from other council members. In a city east of here, another mayor was elected by the same margin and the deputy mayor was elected 4-3. Even though all the winners had pledged to work together, it sounds like they may have some reluctant followers. But the votes also reflect a more accurate picture of the political differences.
Here in Federal Way, Jim Ferrell was elected leader of the council and became deputy mayor on a 7-0 vote, which might suggest a unified approach in policy thinking.
My guess is that the real vote was probably 4-3 with Ferrell, Roger Freeman, and newcomers Susan Honda and Bob Celski voting for Ferrell. Once Ferrell had the fourth vote, the council decided to keep the split vote between themselves.
While it is nice to see differences set aside once the vote is over, it doesn’t really paint an accurate picture that there are going to be differences between these council members, and between the council and the mayor.
This was illustrated by Ferrell’s appointments to council committees. While veteran Dini Duclos was appointed chair of Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee, neither of the two most senior council members — Linda Kochmar and Jeanne Burbidge — were given chairmanships. Kochmar was named to the Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety Committee, which Susan Honda will chair. The third member will be Roger Freeman.
Burbidge was appointed to the Land Use and Transportation Committee, which Bob Celski will chair, and will include Susan Honda. Burbidge was also named to the Lodging Tax Committee. Celski and Freeman will join Duclos on the finance committee.
That puts three Ferrell allies in key positions and relegates the council’s more seasoned members to lower positions. It should be noted that some of the regional committee assignments include the veterans, but those appointments were made prior to January when the council membership was different.
If you’re surprised by all this, you shouldn’t be. Remember all those endorsements from a few months ago? As I have said before, in politics, movements have meaning and there are rarely coincidences. Committee assignments and the vote for deputy mayor are products of the election cycle, and signals what I wrote several weeks ago.
There are likely to be some changes in how City Hall works.