Mirror editorial: ACT's participation in mayor debate shuns accountability

Two sides of the Federal Way mayor-council issue clashed for that extra cupful of influence during a debate Jan. 16.

Facts and rhetoric soaked the Federal Way High School Little Theater for nearly an hour and a half. But the juiciest answer — the notion that at least 65 people left with — came in the form of a question at the end.

Where was ACT?

Accountability Comes to Town, a group headed by Federal Way resident Roy Parke, kicked off this whole race with serious muscle. More than 3,000 petition signatures led to an initiative that could change the city’s current council-manager form of government to one that allows voters to elect a mayor. That mayor would replace a professional city manager. City council members would no longer appoint the mayor from among themselves.

On top of the potential shakeup, the ballot measure has stirred up a sizable public reaction. Thousands of dollars will be spent for the Feb. 19 vote, from election costs to campaign signs and mailers.

Aside from a brief showering of numbers, the debate’s dialogue mostly rang true to the tones of letters that have appeared in The Mirror the past several weeks. Some statistics raised eyebrows over their validity, or a lack thereof, but both sides sent home a basic message.

Federal Way Works, a group opposing the change, assigned local residents Jerry Vaughn and Jim Burbidge to speak. On the pro mayor-council side, Frosty and Gayla Hardison stepped up to support the change. When the Hardisons noted they were not part of ACT, but instead spoke as concerned citizens on that group’s behalf, some heads turned amid gasps and chatter.

Where was ACT?

Not on stage, anyway.

ACT’s head honchos should thank the Hardisons for attempting to salvage any credibility this movement may have lost. The couple even had trouble finding a third person to join them in front of an audience of curious voters who were eager to hear what the fuss was all about.

Out of respect for the community, including those who signed the petition, ACT should have had at least one of its board members on that stage. Both sides knew about the debate for nearly two months.

The Mirror commends Jerry Vaughn, Jim Burbidge, Frosty Hardison and Gayla Hardison for participating in the debate — all over a possible overhaul of Federal Way’s government, courtesy of ACT, wherever it may be.

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