Opinion

Forum: City's form of government

Get yourself informed, sir

Wow, did I ever get a chuckle when I read the Jan. 2 letter to the editor from Patrick Watson.

He endorsed the change to a “strong” mayor, “elected by all of us; answerable to all of us.” That was fine until he claimed in the next sentence that “currently, the individual council members are only answerable to those who live in the district that they represent.”

Patrick, Patrick, Patrick! You need to get yourself better informed. All seven council members (since incorporation) have been elected “at large.” All citizens of Federal Way have the opportunity to vote for candidates in every position. All seven council members represent Federal Way as a whole, not by district.

You then claim to be indignant that a writer opposed to a change of government suggested some citizens may be “uneducated and unsophisticated” (your words, not her words). Well, Patrick, you make her case very well.

Ron Gintz, Federal Way

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Aiming for improvement

One argument I keep hearing is that having a strong (elected) mayor “doesn’t guarantee” that existing problems will solved. “In fact,” as this argument goes, “they might even get worse.”

C’mon, people. It was hard enough to swallow the lame excuse about how we the people are not smart enough to vote for “the right” person — and could allegedly vote in someone who lacks the basic requirements! That one directly insults our intelligence. But the argument about how things could get worse is an even more dangerous one.

In other words, if there’s the possibility that attempts at improvement won’t yield the desired results, we shouldn’t try. Imagine what our city, state and country would be like if that philosophy won out. Thank goodness it doesn’t. Thank goodness people speak out and remind the rest of us that this is supposed to be a government of, by, and for the people — not just for the Federal Way insiders’ club, wielding all the power and influence for the last 20 years.

David McKenzie, Federal Way

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City manager is a big job

On the issue of our maintaining our present city manager form of government or changing to a strong mayor form of government, we believe that common sense should be the basis of our decision.

Common sense tells us that managing 362 employees and the many aspects of our city operations is a big job and requires the very best manager that we can get. We believe it makes sense to obtain our city manager through a national search, with requirements for qualification being based upon education, work experience and professional management skills. The strong mayor form of government does not offer the same opportunity for national selection. It does not give us any assurance that an elected mayor from our community would have any experience at all in operating a city.

Common sense tells us to vote no. We hope you will join us in this decision.

Bob and Marilyn Kellogg, Federal Way

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Time for a change in FW

Under the “Point-Counterpoint: Changing Federal Way’s form of government” (Dec. 5), the person writing for the “Leave city’s government alone” group starts her article with the the phrase, “Why tamper with something that has been proven to work?”

Oh really? Did any one read the front-page article in the Dec. 6 Tacoma News Tribune, “City sells land for massive towers,” regarding the incredibly huge project to begin in our core area? Does anyone recall hearing about United Properties (the builder) being in litigation for building several leaky condos? That United Properties Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., filed for protection in Canada six years ago, similar to a Chapter 11 reorganization? That they had to file for protection regarding two hotels in Arizona? That they may not be union-friendly, may not hire union workers at prevailing wages, may not employ unions and apprenticeship programs? Council member Eric Faison said he was aware of the developers’ protection filing but not the “leaky condo” issue.

Oh well, that makes it all better, doesn’t it? Although at first I was for the Symphony project, after finding that, instead of having primarily businesses and retail, the number of condos and rentals in our high-rises were now a big factor. Now I understand why Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell had called it a bait-and-switch deal during the council meeting, for which he was promptly pounced on by a colleague. Looks like he knew what he was talking about.

Another phrase in that article explained that the first building would be completed in the 18-month cycle that each would be produced in, but, with the qualification that the rest will be built on “demand.” My. What happens if there is no demand? Well, of course, the city can litigate but, wow, how much time and money (taxes) do you suppose that will take?

I think it’s time we get a strong leader to more prudently represent the hopes and desires of the citizens of Federal Way instead of trying to corral and control seven separate people whose opinion of the voter, according to their leader Barbara Reid, is that we’re so short of intellect we would no doubt elect a sixth-grade dropout who can’t even balance a checkbook.

Now we have a chance to elect someone who just might give us a little more credit. Let’s do it on Feb. 19. Let’s not miss this chance to show them how well we can handle the voting booth, so to speak. Let’s vote for the right to elect a strong mayor and get some common sense back into our city government. Vote yes for a strong elected mayor.

Clara McArthur, Federal Way

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Keep city’s government the same

Proponents of changing the form of government in Federal Way from a council-manager to strong mayor-council form continually ask the question, “Why fear a strong mayor?”

The answer is pretty straightforward and simple. What we fear is “bad government.” It is not overly complicated or difficult when you read the Washington State Statute regarding forms of government, particularly the mayor-council form. As we have stated before, there is nothing in the statute that requires any professional qualifications of the mayoral candidate beyond being popular enough to get elected.

That invites a person who is totally unqualified by virtue of education, training or experience to become the chief executive and administrative officer in charge of operations of a large, complex organization. It opens the door to a myriad of problems carrying significant liability and operational consequences. These are avoidable by simply retaining the current system requiring special qualifications of the person holding the most important position in city government as the current council-manager form does.

What we fear is a partisan politician pandering to special interests who have donated to his or her campaign or to vocal groups who may have desires contrary to the best interests of the collective majority. Being a good politician and being an effective executive is not necessarily the same thing. Political expediency is never superior to doing the right things for the right reasons in the right way, even if it is unpopular. In reality, too many career politicians, as a strong mayor would be, put political expediency first.

Proponents of the mayor-council form proclaim citizens deserve a strong mayor. What citizens deserve is responsive, efficient and effective government delivered by competent public servants who are free to do their job without improper political interference or intimidation.

Do we fear change? No not at all. We have seen tremendous change in the city of Federal Way over the past two decades. We are proud of our city and all it offers. While not perfect, on balance it is certainly very good. We believe this progress has been achieved by having thoughtful elected officials working together as a team to set policy and exceptional city employees carrying that policy direction out under the leadership of a well-qualified and competent chief executive and administrative officer in the form of a city manager.

We encourage voters to reject the proposed change in the form of government proposed by ACT and vote no on Feb. 19. Take time and mail your ballot or go to the polls. Retain quality government in Federal Way.

Federal Way Works: Barbara Reid, Ed Opstad, H. David Kaplan, Jim Burbidge, Tom and Mary Ehlis, Ron Gintz, Jerry and Carol Vaughn, Bill Gates, Peg and Jay Altman, Bob and Joann Piquette, Pete and Brenda Sanchez, Liz and Michael Conner, Don Dennis, Bob and Cindy Wroblewski, Robert J. Janson, Bob Edwards, Dan and Alice Olmstead, Tosca Rodriguez, Karen and Bill Feldt, Bob Millen, Jim Storvick, Monda Holsinger, Bob and Kathy Franklin, Sandra and George Jackson, Sandy and Mike Petitt, Peggy and Dennis LaPorte, Skip Priest, Jack Stanford, Joe and Joan Staab, Diana Noble-Guiliford, Mark and Adele Freeland, Bob and Laureen Walker, Dave Larson, Debbie Kaufman, Teri Hickel, Mark Miloscia, Joanna Webster, Steve Blaine, Curt and Nancy Wittman, Eric Stavney, L.T. Colman, Jeff Stock, Michele Mayberry, Monte Powell, Rick Hoffman, Bill and Betty Huff

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