Elected mayor conversation sounds half-empty

By DONALD E. DENNIS, Federal Way resident

I thought it would be informative to describe what a conversation would be like between Accountability Comes To Town (ACT), the proponents of an elected mayor, and Federal Way Works (FWW), the opponents to this change in Federal Way’s government.

ACT seems to have a different understanding of what an elected mayor can do than what the law says about the position. A conversation might go something like this.

ACT: It would have been different if there had been an elected mayor when Celebration Park and the recent Federal Way Community Center were built.

FWW: How would it have been different?

ACT: An elected mayor could have stopped those projects.

FWW: An elected mayor does not have the authority to stop projects like those. The city council approved those projects and the mayor would not be able to do anything except express his opinion. The mayor has no council vote.

ACT: If we had a problem getting something done by a city department, we could go to the mayor and get some action.

FWW: You can go to the city manager right now and get the same results. A mayor could not do any more than a city manager could do. They both have the same authority. If someone in the city is not providing the service you deserve, either one would be able to correct that.

ACT: But the city manager is hired by the city council and would do things the way they wanted rather than what the citizens wanted.

FWW: The council does what the majority of citizens want or they would not be re-elected. The city manager has to follow what the city council establishes as ordinances and policies. That is what he is supposed to do. An elected mayor also must follow what has been authorized by the council. Either one should give good customer service to the citizens while still following the rules.

ACT: Who do we go to if we want something changed in the city?

FWW: You can see the city manager or any council member and find out if the city can accomplish what you want. If it is not currently allowed, you can ask the city manager to take it to city council and ask them if they would make the change you want, or you can take it to the council yourself. Please remember that just because you make a suggestion, it does not mean that the council has to approve it. They must consider what is best for the entire city.

ACT: But I could go to an elected mayor and get something done because we elected him.

FWW: The elected mayor can only make recommendations to the council, just as a city manager can. Then the council makes the decisions. The mayor does not have a council vote and can’t make changes by himself. The mayor has no special power.

ACT: The current mayor is part time so he may not be available, where an elected mayor would be full time and I could probably schedule an appointment to talk with him or her.

FWW: Since the city manager is full time and has the same authority as an elected mayor, you already have someone to meet with and that person is the city manager. Just because you elected a mayor, that does not give him any more authority or power under the law.

ACT: But I would feel better if I was talking to someone that we elected.

FWW: You elected the council members and you can certainly talk to them. They are the only ones who can adopt changes in ordinances and approve other changes in the city. The elected mayor has no council vote and can’t get any more done than a city manager.

ACT thinks that the elected mayor change that they proposed will give us a mayor with the authority to do things that just are not in the state law.

Everyone should read RCW 35A.12.100 to see exactly what the elected mayor can and cannot do and what the position’s duties would be.

Then they would see that the change proposed by ACT would not do what they want.

Donald E. Dennis is a Federal Way resident.

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