Too bad Sanjaya can't run for city's mayor

By Chris Carrel, Thinking Locally

In the time-honored journalistic tradition of seeking truth while filling column space, Thinking Locally presents a question and answer piece dealing with the hot topics on the minds of Federal Way-ers.

We’ll call this new feature “Q & A Federal Way.” Let’s get started.

Q: Isn’t the question and answer format just a cheap ploy to fill column space?

A: No. Of course not. Uh, uh. Nope. I don’t think so.

Q: But isn’t this a tactic lazy columnists use to lob themselves easy and self-gratifying questions?

A: No. That’s silly.

Q: OK. I’m glad you settled that. Is it true that you are an award-winning writer and recently named the 2007 Distinguished Alumni of Highline Community College?

A: Yes. I also have a wonderful singing voice.

Q: There’s a ballot measure to change our form of government from a council-manager system to an elected mayor system. Why is this on the ballot?

A: Some people finally got fed up with our city’s low tax rates, top-rated financial management, a top-notch police department, an efficient public works department, good public parks and a burgeoning economic redevelopment effort — and called for a change.

Q: Um, do we really want to change that?

A: We’ll see Feb. 19.

Q: The ballot proponents believe the council-manager form of government is not democratic and say we need to elect a mayor to have city government represent the people. Who foisted this undemocratic form of government on us?

A: The voters did, in 1990, when they voted for incorporation and selected the council-manager form of government.

Q: Can you think of any other ways in which citizens could have their voices heard in city government?

A: A good first step is voting in local elections. In most city council races, only about a third of the registered voters take time to vote. Getting involved in city committees or nonprofit efforts like Friends of the Hylebos or the Chamber of Commerce are also excellent ways to make a difference and influence policy. And if you’re really convinced that the city isn’t representing your interest, run for a city council position. In 10 of the past 17 races since 1999, council candidates were unopposed.

Q: What’s the difference between the two systems?

A: In one, voters get to elect who represents them. In the other, voters get to elect who represents them.

Q: The elected mayor form of government is often called the strong mayor. Is the mayor really strong?

A: No. You’re thinking of California’s Strong Governor form of government.

Q: What’s the biggest benefit of the council-manager system?

A: An elected council sets city policy and hires a professionally-trained city manager to implement the policy.

Q: What’s the biggest drawback of the current system?

A: Most people have even less understanding of what a city manager does than they do of their own state legislators.

Q: What’s the biggest benefit of the elected mayor system?

A: Anybody can be mayor.

Q: What’s the biggest drawback of the elected mayor system?

A: Anybody can be mayor.

Q: Even you?

A: Oh, stop. You flatter me. Little ol’ me as mayor? Well, I suppose I do have the qualifications.

Q: Wow. I suppose you do. Will you run if the initiative passes?

A: First, I’ve got to check with the people who determine my schedule?

Q: Who would that be?

A: My wife, my daughters and my daughters’ soccer coaches.

Q: But wouldn’t you make a good mayor? You run a successful nonprofit organization.

A: Well, running a city is a lot different than running a nonprofit or a business. However, I have managed a number of cities while playing SimCity, the city-management computer simulation game.

Q: How did that turn out?

A: Well, thousands died in the urban riots...on the other hand, I did keep the tax rates low!

Q: OK. Let’s change the subject. Is MRSA the biggest health threat in Federal Way right now?

A: The elected mayor measure may pose a larger threat.

Q: Why is that?

TL: Given the rumor mill of the large crowd of people considering running for mayor if the measure passes, there will be a stampede of candidates filing for office that will rival the crush of fans trying to see Sanjaya after last season’s “American Idol.” It’ll be like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Only with politicians.

Q: You really love to work Sanjaya references into your columns, don’t you?

A: Sanjaya is comedy gold. Federal Way misses him already. You know, he might make a pretty good mayor.

Chris Carrel is a lifelong Federal Way resident and executive director of the Friends of the Hylebos. E-mail: chinook@hylebos.org.

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