Opinion

Forum: Federal Way's form of government

Sticking with ACT’s view

I have lived in Federal Way since long before it was anything more than the first grocery shopping center on 312th and 99 (or “Pacific Highway South” for you newer residents).

I have watched the same people run for council and re-incarnate themselves by repeating terms as mayor. Come on folks, that’s just being self-serving. It’s not so much a matter of getting rid of the city manager as it is getting control of an out-of-control council.

I also happened to visit the Web site for Federal Way Works (www.federalwayworks.org). Notice there is no way to contact them: No e-mail, no phone numbers. At least you can talk to a live person from Accountability Comes to Town (www.actfedway.com).

Now, I noticed today that all of the signage for ACT (vote yes) had disappeared on Dash Point Road as of Feb. 7. Mysteriously, only the new signs asking to vote no were now visible. Seems like an honest straight-forward group with our interests in mind to me. Kind of like the KKK or Crystal Night in Germany. I think they are just playing the typical dirty politics and self-interest of the council as usual.

Bill Walker, Federal Way

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City manager works best

Why has the council manager form of government (Federal Way’s current form) become the most popular form (63 percent) of government in the United States in cities of 25,000 or more population?

The reasons are many — predominantly, I believe, because a city manager is required to have professional education and training, and to follow an established code of ethics, none of which is required for an elected mayor.

In our system, seven council members form the legislative body. Coming from widely varied backgrounds, they offer, consider and seek out a wide range of points of view.

Included in this process are our city’s volunteer commissions (planning, human services, parks and recreation, arts, diversity, youth and civil service). Research is done as needed by the city manager and staff, with discussion and deliberation taking place at public council committee meetings and public city council meetings. Citizen comment is welcomed at all of these meetings. Decisions are made publicly with the best interest of the city as a whole in mind. Full council meetings are televised; these meetings are shown repeatedly on Channel 21 and can be streamed from the city’s Web site. The city manager and his or her staff are then responsible for carrying out the decisions made.

In our city’s form of government, we do not experience the politicized operation that frequently occurs with cities having an elected mayor, as has been witnessed recently in Seattle and in Ruston. Often, such politicizing causes quality personnel to leave, along with tumult and gridlock resulting in delays and unnecessary additional expense. When a new city manager has been selected by our council (with a large amount of citizen involvement and input), transitions have been smooth, allowing for continued efficient and cost-effective government operations.

Our city manager collaborates with other governmental bodies in our community and region. Federal Way, under the direction of the city manager, has joined our city police department with Lakehaven Utility District, South King Fire and Rescue, and the Federal Way School District to form an emergency operations program in the event of any major disaster. A training program to deal with emergencies is available for individual citizens and neighborhoods. This is but one example of the effective government operation that carries on every day for the benefit of all of us.

Having worked closely with our city government since it was formed and with cities having other governmental structures, I believe that the council-manager format works most effectively and efficiently for our citizens.

Jeanne Burbidge, Federal Way

Note: Burbidge is a Federal Way City Council member.

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Time has come to elect mayor

Again we have a well put-together letter by Mayor Jack Dovey and council members Eric Faison and Linda Kochmar explaining the wonderful form of government we have (Feb. 2).

I agree. However, this wonderful format is not working as described in their clever, business-like presentation. What do you think motivated more than 3,000 people to petition for change? What do you think is motivating all our supporters, members and letter writers? If you confront the power brokers, you get plastered with denigrating labels and all sorts of accusations — i.e., from the person who wrote the letter signed L.T. Coleman, accusing me of never speaking if I have to look someone in the eye. Let me tell you about looking people in the eye. For several years, in trying to be an involved and responsible citizen in my city, I and many others attended many meetings trying to make a difference. A great many of us gave our three-minute speeches before the council. A disconcerting experience for people not usually giving speeches.

But, nothing was more disconcerting than a former council member’s refusal to ever acknowledge the speaker by looking that person in the eye, unless, of course, you were a fan of hers.

We had been warned we would be made to feel invisible and insignificant as she kept her head down writing or doodling. Many people complained at such rudeness. The other six at least observed us before ignoring us. When trying to stop the transit choice of sites, we were told we could air our grievance before a court commissioner, which we all showed up for. Before speaking, while “looking him in the eye,” I first asked, why are we here? This is already written in stone by the council and he said “it seems you’re right but go ahead and give your speech if you want to,” and all the transit people chuckled. What a shameful way for a council to treat its citizens.

The “fear of change” group has painted foreboding pictures of all the bad things that could happen under a strong mayor. But their biggest mistake is to imply it’s unlikely we’d be able to find a qualified person here locally. Unbelievable! In a city of nearly 90,000 citizens, “they” feel not one would be qualified? My, what modesty. This attitude and their stated phrase that they feel they need to go with the council majority’s opinion (four people), as opposed to the vocal minority’s (we the people), is itself a bugle call for change.

The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce endorsed the status quo. How nice, but what happened to their two earlier phrases that they, nonetheless, disagreed with the status quo and felt we did, indeed, need change? Do these slips of the lip just go away now? How convenient. And the beat goes on. They’re all certainly wound up tighter than an eight-day clock in their effort to hang onto power, aren’t they?

For these and many other reasons, we feel a strong and independent mayor’s time has come and a great many of us feel it can’t hurt as, seemingly, the only way is up. Please vote yes Feb. 19 for a new and inclusive future for the citizens of Federal Way. Vote yes to elect our mayor.

Clara McArthur, Federal Way resident, ACT board member

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Impressed by city’s leaders

I was surprised that I was only one out of three people who attended the Federal Way City Council’s annual retreat Jan. 26 at the community center. I think the citizens missed out on an opportunity to see an overview of the accomplishments, disappointments and plans for the future of our city. I’ve attended others in the past as well.

After listening to a full day, I found some thoughtful, hard-working people who are trying to deal with the challenges of our city. I was impressed with the presentations of the staff and the discussion and evaluations of each issue. There was a congenial attitude amongst all present.

Although I might not agree with all that was discussed, I had the opportunity to visit with several city officials who were willing to listen to my thoughts as well, and I have in general over the years felt this with other members and staff. A segment of their discussion was directed to having a good relationship with citizens who have concerns and how to solve them.

After some lengthy discussion of the “downtown” area, it was refreshing to me to see them approach the “neighborhoods” and how they might work with citizens in each area with their concerns. I do hope that this will be an opportunity for each of us to be involved in improving our image of caring.

I was very impressed with Jack Dovey, our “new mayor” who several times discussed issues from the prospective of a business owner as well as a private citizen in a very thoughtful way. And I would say the same from Mike Park, our previous mayor who also incorporated many of the same things.

I have been impressed with our city manager, Neal Beets, whom I have seen in several settings and his concerns for our city as a whole. Shortly after he arrived, he visited the board of the Federal Way Historical Society to listen to our concerns.

I’m grateful that the council meetings are broadcast so I don’t have to go to City Hall, but would encourage others to take the opportunity to attend next year’s retreat.

Let’s keep our form of local government as it is now. I can see each person involved is working to provide the best service they can.

Lynda L. Jenkins, Federal Way

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