Your Turn: Power positioning splits mayor debate

By Bill Pirkle, The Pirkle Report

I support a popularly elected mayor. The issue has, at its heart, political philosophy, specifically the difference in philosophy between the left and the right.

The left — liberals and thus mostly Democrats — embrace the idea of a central government, usually big and run by an elite few. They seem to feel that the public can’t take care of its own affairs and that this elite should run things for the good of the people. This is a rehash of the doctrine of “noblesse oblige,” a term generally used to imply that with wealth, power and prestige come social responsibilities.

In ethical discussion, it is used to summarize a moral economy wherein privilege must be balanced by duty toward those who lack such privilege or cannot perform such duty.

It’s interesting that in the leftist Soviet Union, few citizens were in the Communist party. The masses took direction from the elite. Thus, under the doctrine of noblesse oblige, the elite are saddled with the responsibility of running things. It’s their obligation.

Poor babies. One wonders where they find the time to spend their money. This, along with the doctrine of “manifest destiny,” are convenient ideas for those with power who want more power.

We even see this in the leftist Democratic Party in our current presidential elections. There are super delegates who can swing the nomination in case the public, in its foolishness, should nominate the “wrong person.” The idea lets the elite make the final decision and weakens the general public’s political power.

Finally, we see this in Federal Way politics. The mayor is elected by the elite on the city council. This way, the right political decision can be made. We would not want the foolish public to elect a mayor who might be against more development or a mayor who might get the city involved in our failing school system. No, these decisions are best left to the ruling class.

This is a remotely elected mayor since the council is elected. But the candidates for mayor are limited to the members of the city council. No doubt they take turns being mayor. In this system, the checks and balances are missing. The mayor should act as a check on the city council. They should work like the president works with the Congress and the governor works with the Legislature. A popularly elected mayor would have veto power over the city council and its actions — actions often motivated by lobbyists and campaign contributors.

We can be sure that the city council would not elect a mayor whose stated intentions was to act as a check on the city council. Thus it becomes a “good old boys” club with the city manager taking care of the day-to-day tasks of running the city.

The problem with this form: Who does the public throw out of office when voters are unhappy?

Currently, we would have to throw out a majority of the city council to get a new mayor, not that this new mayor would have any power to change things. It’s democracy at its worse.

I believe in power to the people. Under that thinking, the people would elect a mayor. There would be direct accountability to the people by the mayor. The mayor could be the leader of the currently leaderless Federal Way. The mayor’s speeches could unite the city. The mayor could have a vision for Federal Way, and would have the power of the public behind him/her.

Here’s hoping Federal Way citizens will have the opportunity to read a book on democracy before this comes up again to enhance the lessons in civics — which they may or may not have received in public school.

Federal Way resident Bill Pirkle: bpirkle@zipcon.net.

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