Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: Feb. 2, 2008

Regardless of who’s right, please vote

On Feb. 19, will you be exercising your right to have a voice in your government? The founding fathers of our country sacrificed a lot to give provide citizens many opportunities to participate in our representative government. Those rights extend to your own municipality.

On the February ballot, there will be an option to change Federal Way’s form of municipal government from the current council-city manager to mayor-council.

The council-city manager form of government didn’t exist a century ago when most of our neighboring communities became incorporated towns and cities. Why have almost all of the Washington communities incorporated since 1990 (when Federal Way incorporated) chosen the council-city manager form of government? Is it more effective and less expensive? Is it less prone to political turmoil? I think so.

But choose for yourself. Do your homework. Start with checking the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington Web site and read about forms of municipal government: www.mrsc.org/Subjects/Management/forms/compare.aspx/.

See a comparison between the existing and proposed forms of government: www.mrsc.org/Subjects/management/forms/overview.aspx/.

Our council members have an enormous responsibility to act in the best interest of the community as a whole. A city manager with a formal education in political administration and with significant experience in city management acts as CEO at the direction of the council. By majority vote, council determines city priorities and makes all other major decisions. State laws, available funds and resources such as staffing impact all decisions. Thus,

individual and special interest group requests may not be possible or may not take precedence over other projects that would benefit the greater community. A Sunday drive around town will give you a glimpse of some of the significant strides made in the 17 short years we’ve been a city.

The small group called Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) is asking for a change of Federal Way’s form of government on the February ballot. It appears that ACT was initiated by a couple of individuals and a special interest group who felt that their requests to the city were not suitably met. Is a change in the form of city government an appropriate response? Is the current form of municipal government really ineffective, or is it really an issue of limitations and priorities? Will an inadequately experienced, popularly voted mayor focus more on benefiting individual or group special interests? Will it be in the community’s best interest? You decide.

Learn more about your city at www.cityoffederalway.com. Come to meetings and participate. And if you’d like to make a sincere and dedicated contribution to your community, consider running for Federal Way City Council; there’s an election every couple of years.

Whatever you do, use your right as a citizen: Vote on Feb. 19!

Sandy Petitt, Federal Way

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ACT’s smoke and mirrors

It is particularly important for all of us to closely read our King County voters pamphlet this year. With all the misleading statements that have come from the proponents for the strong mayor system, people could find themselves making a decision that is not based on fact.

Those that support a strong mayor have said that a mayor will not eliminate the city manager position. The facts are in your voters pamphlet — a vote for mayor means just that. There is no wiggle room here. If you vote for a mayor, a politician and whatever political baggage he or she may carry will now run our city.

As a longtime member of this community, I am tired of the smoke-and-mirror tactics that ACT members and their self-appointed spokesperson have used, and I take great exception to their references to their representing “We the People.”

It is time to take action for the many of us that have striven to make Federal Way a better place to live. Please become actively involved by contacting Federal Way Works at www.federalwayworks.com.

Bob Kellogg, Federal Way

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Sitting on the mayor fence

I’m very satisfied with the Federal Way City Council and support most of the decisions they have made since we became a city.

I do not support the Accountability Comes to Town movement to elect a mayor in order to override decisions that are not popular with ACT. The ACT complainers have demonstrated very little constructive reasons to change to a mayor type of government.

I do have some questions with how our current form of government would handle the following situations.

First, in a time of emergency such as an earthquake or mass shooting in one of our public places/schools. Who is responsible to mobilize the city police/fireman, find a refuge for injured and displaced people, designate school buses for evacuation, ask the governor for assistance?

Second, who is selling the city to potential businesses? I see many vacancies created by departed companies and wonder who is communicating with potential retailers, schools and professional groups. Is there an individual who can make promises to potential concerns to move to our city by offering timely inspections and permits or even tax breaks?

Third, when there is an instant such as the city’s judge scandal, Christian Faith property zoning or the Wal-Mart’s second store, who is responsible to brief the public and the media?

I’m set to vote against the strong mayor proposal but I wonder if an elected mayor might be better suited in the situations stated.

Al Stipe, Federal Way

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Community center's realities

During the Jan. 16 mayor debate, a speaker for the pro mayor-council side said “money is dedicated to projects that Federal Way citizens do not necessarily approve of.”

I want to focus only on the remarks made about the community center. They said that the community center didn’t have widespread community support and was competing with local businesses.

The need for a community center has been part of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Comprehensive Plan since it was approved by the city council in December 1991. And that approval came after 15 months of public hearings; I sat on the task force that put the Parks Comp Plan together. That plan has been reviewed every five years since 1991, and the community center has always been an expressed need in the community and remained in every final, approved Comp Plan.

Once a means for funding the center was established, public meetings were held for nearly a year to get citizen input about what the building should include. Then cost estimates and further revisions were made to come up with a building that satisfied the public needs and could be built for funds available.

I questioned whether the community center’s fitness area would compete with the private ones in the city. The answer was it wouldn’t, because the goals are different. The community center’s fitness area is for beginners. These are the people who don’t exercise much, want to get started and feel hesitant to do so with the body builders, jocks and other fitness-crazed adults one finds in places like Bally’s and 24 Hour Fitness. After the beginners felt more comfortable using the equipment, they might want a more extensive exercise program and the services of a professional trainer. That’s when they would enroll in the private sector clubs. And that’s exactly what has happened. Rather than compete with private clubs, the community center generates business for them.

King County wanted to close the Kenneth Jones pool, but the city agreed to operate it while the community center was being built. Federal Way subsidized the Kenneth Jones Pool for $300,000 a year before the facility was returned to the school district on whose land the building sits. Costly renovation will have to be done on the facility in the near future if it is to remain open.

The truth is that the community center offers a variety of family activities for all ages at the same time and same location. The community center also has four elements unique to Federal Way: The climbing wall, the indoor track, the lazy river walk in the pool, and an indoor water slide. It is a family-oriented place and serves our city well.

H. David Kaplan, Federal Way

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