Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: Feb. 6, 2008

A chance to vote for an elected mayor:

Jack Dovey is a good man.

I voted for him when he wanted to retain his seat on the Federal Way City Council. And I have no doubt that he’s performing the role of mayor as well as can be expected. I have also considered council member Linda Kochmar to be a friend, as I have seen her demonstrate a show of genuine sympathy for issues affecting Federal Way citizens.

That said, I used the word “mayor” above reluctantly. Dovey is a mayor because he was appointed by his fellow council members. That’s the issue. It’s not about the abilities of any individual. It’s about the structure of city leadership and chain of command. And yes, about accountability.

Perhaps it’s true that council members Dovey, Kochmar and Faison believe what they said in their opinion piece in The Mirror (Feb. 2). At the same time, they are defending the status quo. They and their supporters see no need for change. We know that. So what about those facts readers were presented with in that opinion piece? Can they stand up to some scrutiny?

It was claimed that an elected mayor represents a “political partisan untrained in the day-to-day management of city government.” Huh? I know people on the left (I lean that way myself) and the right who agree that this has nothing to do with partisanship. Is there potential for abuse? Folks, there’s potential for abuse in everything we do. Note that one of the documented arguments against the corporate-style council-manager form of city government is that it happens to be “subject to politics of the council.”

As for being “untrained,” well, here we go again with that insult to our intelligence. Who could forget the insinuation that we could vote for someone’s dog? And oh, by the way, we voters have been voting for our city council for nearly 20 years.

They also asked this question: “Who do you really think is going to be more accountable to you and to your neighbor?” Indeed, that is the basis of this whole argument. He or she would be an elected advocate for the people. Contrary to what our city leaders are telling us, this is not about one person yielding some great and terrible power. (The last I heard, the U.S. had a president and not a king.)

It’s about a mayor. A mayor with a council that provides the necessary checks and balances. Accountability and responsibility has a way of trickling down too. It has to start at the top; then the council and even the people have a role in the process.

But again, it’s all about advocacy. Those who think the people have an adequate voice will likely vote to leave things the way they are. Those of you who have spoken at city council meetings or tried to navigate through the channels of city staff, only to be frustrated by attempts to be heard, are more likely to see the logic in electing your mayor. Not an “untrained” mayor; not a “partisan” mayor; an elected mayor.

We all know there are numerous arguments for and against both forms of government. And frankly, there will always be dissatisfied people. But I would prefer to take the “glass half-full” approach and think that the people might actually be able to take their vote and create positive change.

David McKenzie, Federal Way


Keep our government moving

On Feb. 19, Federal Way citizens will decide whether to change the form of their city’s government. I am the owner of Sparks Car Care, a small business in Federal Way, as well as the chairman of the board for the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber consists of 600 businesses and more than 30,000 employees. I want to give a perspective of this proposed change from these two areas.

The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce asked a subcommittee to review the upcoming ballot measure to change the form of the Federal Way government from council-manager to mayor-council. The board of directors agreed with their recommendation by a unanimous vote urging members to vote against the ballot measure.

We have a current system (council-manager) that allows for the following:

• Accountability: Accountable for the city manager’s performance by the elected city council.

• Cost of government: With no change, there is no budget increase.

• Office term: Contract terms are flexible and set by the elected city council.

• Politics: Less politics in the daily operations of the city.

• Qualifications: There are set qualifications and experience requirements for the hiring of the city manager.

The proposed new system (mayor-council) would allow for the following:

• Cost of government: This adds a new branch and costs will increase.

• Office term: Four years for elected mayor determined by the voters.

• Politics: There will be more politics to get items passed and could create decision gridlock

• Qualifications: Mayor is elected on popularity, funding and political savvy.

The Chamber has unanimously adopted a position against the mayor-council ballot initiative.

If this initiative becomes law, there will be a tremendous change in the political power structure of the city. Political power will shift to the elected mayor, and the city council role will be diminished. This change would bring the potential of both great risks and great rewards for our community.

If a strong, intelligent, pro-business individual were elected as mayor, the business community and the city could enjoy great benefits.

However, the wrong person taking the office of mayor could have very serious consequences for economic growth and the health of our business community. Special interest groups could potentially buy the office and exert undue influence with the elected mayor. The possibility of corruption and favoritism in city government would increase. If a weak, narrow-minded, anti-growth, anti-business person were to become mayor, there could be discord, trouble and decision gridlock in the city.

Should this initiative pass, the latter scenario would be a very real possibility for our community. We find this risk to be unacceptable. The potential risks outweigh the potential rewards. This is the primary reason for our recommendation.

The proponents for this ballot initiative say that the current council-manager form of city government is not responsive enough and not accountable to the people. We disagree. There are seven elected members of the city council who are accountable to the people. If they are not responsive to the people they represent, they can and should be replaced by election.

Moreover, if the city manager’s performance is not satisfactory, that person can be replaced much more easily and quickly than an elected mayor.

Merle Pfeifer, Federal Way


No love for the state’s Gov:

When did the Federal Way Mirror start campaigning for any person who will be running for any office? Other than on the opinion page, and not on the front page?

In The Mirror on Feb. 2, a story openly made a pitch for Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Many people do not think she entered the office of the governor, four years ago fairly, because for some reason it took three counts for her to get into office.

I did notice there was no mention of how, when this person took office, right away she upped the gas tax to 9 cents a gallon, over a three-year period.

There were other increases in taxes that have affected those of us who are retired, thanks to Gregoire.

Gregoire slammed President Bush’s administration because he will veto a health care bill the way it is written.

Anyone who can read would know the reason he will veto this bill: Who is going to pick up the tab if the bill passed?

They, your elected officials said the government would pick up the bill. Well, where does the government get its money?

The only strides this state has taken since Gregoire became your governor is raising your taxes.

Pat Gee, Federal Way

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