Letters to the Editor

Transparency part of successful transition in city government | Letter from Federal Way City Council

In the recent transition from a council-manager form of government to a mayor-council form of government, the Federal Way City Council has had to rewrite the city code to reflect new management authority and new procedures.

All along, the council’s goal has been to establish a transparent and effective government with the appropriate checks and balances. We have done that, while establishing a productive working relationship with the city’s first elected mayor, passing important legislation, addressing a budget crisis, and undertaking vital economic development projects.

Recently, The Mirror’s political columnist Bob Roegner raised questions regarding the appointment process for senior city management and whether it met the community’s expectations of transparency. The city council, as a whole, would like to share the facts with the community, and correct the record.

Since voters approved a change of government in November 2009, the council has focused on the task of converting our city’s ordinances and procedures to the mayor-council form.

One of the first challenges we had to face was the possibility of senior staff leaving due to the uncertainty and transition surrounding the change of government. We had already lost key senior staff with many years experience and were greatly concerned about the impact of losing additional institutional knowledge.

After the November 2009 initiative to change the form of government, the council approved two-year contracts for some senior management to provide stability during the year leading up to the mayoral vote, and for the new mayor’s first year of office. The danger of losing key senior management during an unprecedented governmental transition cannot be overstated.

These were not political moves aimed at the mayor’s race, but fundamental management decisions. We refer readers to the unanimous council vote to approve the contracts, and note that three of those seven “yes” votes were candidates in the mayor’s race.

At the beginning of this year, Mayor Skip Priest proposed reorganizing management staff to save nearly $1 million over two years. A key element involved the mayor appointing two senior staff to reorganized departments with expanded duties. Mr. Roegner contends that confirmation hearings were necessary to approve the appointments. This simply is not the case. The city code does not require hearings, nor does it prescribe a specific process for such appointments.

Like many other mayor-council cities, Federal Way’s code gives authority to the mayor to appoint senior management staff with “confirmation by a majority of the council.” That confirmation took place at the Jan. 18 city council meeting.

We believe the voters expect the city council and the mayor to work effectively together and that’s what the last six months have produced. Both the city council and the mayor are committed to effective, transparent city government that provides high quality services. The past year has been an important and productive one in city governance.

In addition to effecting a nearly seamless change of government, the council passed a two-year budget with spending cuts to close a $9 million deficit while saving 18 police officer positions. We have worked cooperatively with the mayor to find an additional $956,000 in savings in the current budget. The council has enacted major public safety efforts, such as the secondhand metals dealer ordinance and the emergency moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. We have also moved forward important downtown economic development efforts, including the civic center project and the mixed-use redevelopment of the AMC Theatre site.

We believe that the achievements of the last year show that your city government is working hard for you and for a better Federal Way. Mr. Roegner is correct in that transparency is of critical importance to our citizens, and we welcome discussion and dialogue about city governance.

If you have comments or concerns for the council, we want to hear from you. Contact us at (253) 835-2401 or citycouncil@cityoffederalway.com.

Federal Way City Council: Jeanne Burbidge, Jack Dovey, Dini Duclos (Deputy Mayor), Jim Ferrell, Roger Freeman, Linda Kochmar and Michael Park

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