Opinion

Forum: Federal Way's form of government

Puzzled by mayor issue

I have read several letters written by David McKenzie and others and find their position to be puzzling.

They say we need yet another elected position — strong mayor — to take on the city council on behalf of the citizens of Federal Way. You know, ride herd on those irresponsible yahoos (elected by the same citizens voting for a mayor) and hold them accountable. Certainly the insights of one person will be better than that of the combined council members.

In their model, the mayor would be accessible to hear citizen concerns and carry these back to the council meetings. When the mayor takes on the role of city manager, it is hard to believe that most people really would have access to a busy mayor running a growing community.

I believe what they really want is an ombudsman position in our city government. This person by definition would be available to hear issues and concerns from the citizens and work within the system to assure appropriate adjudication on their behalf. A strong mayor position likely would not work as Mr. McKenzie and others envision it, and may make things worse rather than better.

Darrell Fisk, Federal Way

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It’s all about control

In the ongoing war of words over a strong mayor vs. the current city manager/city council form of government, one thing stands out: Control. Who should have it and who should exercise it.

As one of those who actively fought for cityhood for Federal Way, I was in complete agreement that we needed a knowledgeable, experienced city manager to guide us in setting up our city government. The transition from county control to city control went relatively smooth. However, when election time for the city council came around again, it was apparent there were problems.

The main problem was, and still is, ego. Several like-minded council members banded together in an elitist clique. Nothing got done unless it had their OK. Individualism on the city council was discouraged. If a council member wanted something to be considered or passed, it first had to be approved by the clique. Things were decided in “executive council,” away from public comment. If a citizen approached a council member with a request, he was told “That’s a good idea, but I’ll have to see if the majority of the council agrees.” Thus he safely passed the buck “to the other council members.”

That way of responding to public input continues today. If they decide they want something done, but the majority of the public says “no,” what they want gets passed anyway. That is how we got Celebration Park — a commercial sports park, not a public park.

The city council has complete control over the city’s business. The Chamber of Commerce likes it that way. They are fighting to keep that control. The ruling clique is so smugly sure that only they have the correct vision to guide the direction and well-being of Federal Way. Never mind what the people of Federal Way want.

The elitists fear losing control to a strong mayor — a mayor who will truly represent the people’s vision and needs. Vote yes for a strong mayor.

Patrick Watson, Federal Way

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Accountable to whom?

We have managed to read every letter pertaining to the mayoral issue without shredding the paper and tossing it across the room.

We now realize the true meaning of “spin.” Our frustration stems from the fact that our opposition seems to have trouble staying on topic without getting personal, and persists in twisting words to suit their own definition. Yet they cry foul every time they are asked to clarify one of their statements or actions.

Members of Federal Way Works are proud of being known for serving on commissions or committees, for speaking at public meetings, for independently researching issues and working hard for the best interests of our community. We have a great deal of respect for each member of Federal Way Works, his or her intelligence, intentions and integrity.

We are proud to declare ourselves part of the efforts to dispel what appears to be an intentionally misleading campaign about adopting a different form of city government. Contrary to what our opposition tries to perpetuate about our committee, we trust that given accurate information presented with good intentions, the majority of voters in Federal Way will join us to make the wisest choice about how to be governed.

Why would we want to fall into the trap of giving too much power to one individual when we can never be sure about who they would feel more accountable to — accountable to whom? To those who funded their

election, a political party that supported them, or to those who share the same platform? Shouldn’t a mayor be accountable to the community as a whole? Do you suppose a politically-motivated partisan elected mayor will be more responsive to all of us rather than seven popularly elected council members?

With seven elected council members, we all stand a better chance of not having one set of agendas and special interests dictating to the rest of us about how we should spend our tax dollars, what we should believe and how we should live. Remember that the council-manager form of government grew out of reactions to and concerns about corruption, mismanagement and acrimony that has and still does occur in cities with the mayor-council form of government.

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it! Rather than rejecting a system that was established for the benefit of everyone and moving to one that will benefit special interests, why not learn how to get positively involved? It does mean contacting and persuading a majority of our elected officials that what you are proposing will benefit the entire community. It also means accurately researching and presenting your position, while gaining support from a broad spectrum of individuals and groups.

If you want to change things, get involved in your government and community in a positive way.

We are for real representative government. Seven elected council members that are chosen by a majority of the people of Federal Way. Federal Way Works is dedicated to retaining highly professional, competent and ethical non-partisan service in Federal Way. Federal Way Works has worked hard to present clear and accurate information as to why the council-manager form of government is the best form of governance for a city of our size.

Power, control and influence. That is what this unnecessary, costly and divisive special election is all about.

Vote against the adoption of the mayor-council form of government on Feb. 19.

Mary Ehlis and Peg Altman, Federal Way

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If we had a real mayor

Federal Way is now the third largest employer in the area, just behind Weyerhaeuser and the Federal Way School District in number of employees. We, the taxpaying citizenry, are obligated for that ever-growing payroll.

Our current council-manager system is akin to having elected union officials running the big business, but no CEO to direct it.

I think this ever-expanding empire needs an individual to take charge and set limits when indicated.

It’s curious that the most vocal opposition to having a strong mayor comes from special interest advocates, i.e. park commissioners and art commissioners (past and/or present) and from certain council members that usually pander to these groups.

It’s unlikely that it’s the police department personnel or staff at City Hall that has made us such a big employer, but rather the addition of a gargantuan health club known as the Community Center and also the Knutzen Theater and Dumas Bay Convention Center staffs.

Parks department and arts groups want to keep the status quo to protect and even expand those empires.

We taxpayers had to vote to pass a special bond for public safety/police department.

If we had a real mayor, we could exert our own influence directly, and I’ve no doubt there’d be much greater citizen participation/input.

Vote yes for a strong mayor, please — let’s control our own destiny here. I trust the citizen voters more than the opponents that feign fear that we might elect a dummy for mayor.

Marie Adair, Federal Way

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Let’s focus on the issues

I am writing this comment to address several past comments and bring back the issue of whether to vote yes or no for an elected mayor. I am only concerned about whether the change of government would be good for the residents of Federal Way.

The Mirror ran a few stories after the Jan. 16 debate that The Mirror and Federal Way Chamber put on stating how Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) did not show up. What I got from stories printed from ACT’s Web site and affiliates was that The Mirror and Chamber were notified that the dates given to ACT for the debate would not work out. The debate was held anyway. And both the Chamber and Mirror could not understand why the key players from ACT were not there. (Some of the members of ACT were actually there.) This also let Federal Way Works state that a homeowners association board meeting could have been blown off and the president of ACT should lose his job for the debate in order to attend. I was also told by someone from the ACT side that Federal Way Works was subsequently invited to a debate by city council member Jim Ferrell. Federal Way Works declined.

The Federal Way Chamber was allowed comments in The Mirror before the debate saying that the Chamber would not be willing to support a strong mayor position, but would be willing to look at a hybrid system of an elected mayor system. Although this opinion seems to support the view that change in government is needed, the Chamber was allowed to co-host the debate when it already took a side before the debate happened. Does this suggest that something stinks somewhere? I would like to think not. I know some of the key players both from the Chamber and writers from The Mirror, and I don’t think these key players or writers would behave this way. Let the readers decide on this, but it seems to be unusual.

It would appear that ACT not being there has become the front issue. This is deterring the voters from seeing the issues. What is the real issue? Is it that the Chamber and Mirror held a debate that ACT’s key players could not attend? I don’t think so. But it has now become an issue that will deter one from the pros and cons of any real debate. Let’s have editorials on both sides — not on issues that detract from what is good for Federal Way, such as who did what and when. I want to hear the issues so each voter can make an educated choice at the poll. Is Federal Way Works afraid of that? They seem to be focused on the wrong issue. Parties such as ACT, Federal Way Works and the Chamber need to focus now on educating the public on why they think their side is best, so the voters can decide on the future of Federal Way.

The Chamber should not drop an opinion, yet offer no insights into the issue. Federal Way Works should state why they think our current government should stay the same, and ACT should state why we need the change. Period. Let’s get back to the issues that face our decision at the polls so one can make a decision that is best for our great city.

At this point I think the pros for an elected mayor outweigh the cons of not having one. Convince me otherwise.

John Wilde, Federal Way

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