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POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Prop. 1 will be good for FW
By Ron Gintz, Federal Way resident
There has been much written and debated regarding a change to a strong mayor form of government in Federal Way.
One statement is clearly true: Current council members would see a significant reduction in the “power” they hold over the decision-making process. Therefore, the six members opposing the measure should have avoided a council vote as was suggested in an Oct. 7 opinion column by Jacinda Howard. Having served eight years on the Federal Way City Council and observing a serious lack of vision the past 10 years under our current system, I have decided to endorse the change.
It is interesting that opponents of the change point to the fear that an elected mayor will be “beholden” to special interests that helped get him or her elected. How is that any different from the special interests that support council members? Jeanne Burbidge is clearly backed by arts groups. Mayor Jack Dovey is backed by business. An elected mayor will be no more vulnerable to special interest groups than current council members.
Opponents of the change claim a city manager can be removed immediately, whereas removing an elected mayor is more difficult. They point proudly at the recent removal of Neal Beets as a sterling example. Let’s look at that. We were told, upon Neal Beets' departure, that the council and Mr. Beets parted ways as a result of differing views on where the city should be headed. Was that transparency? Is it coincidental that just days before, Mr. Beets announced a $4.5 million shortfall in a budget adopted by the council less than four months before? Mr. Beets was the messenger. The council was clearly embarrassed. Last fall, while adopting the budget, council members lauded their collective conservatism. They adopted a budget that produced no layoffs and 4 percent pay increases for staff during the worst recession since the Great Depression. They proudly stated our city did not face the cutbacks other cities were facing because our council budgeted conservatively. But when it came time to accept blame or offer apologies for missing the mark so drastically, not one council member stepped forward to honestly address Mr. Beets’ departure or their own complicity in the budgeting fiasco. It appears we paid Mr. Beets in excess of $100,000 to just disappear. Is that the kind of accountability we are to accept under the current system?
The most implausible argument raised by opponents of the change to strong mayor is the notion that unqualified parties may win election. Our population base is larger than that of Auburn, Kent and Renton, yet those cities seem to have attracted strong capable leadership for years. Let me give you a sampling of capable leaders in our midst that would guide a new vision splendidly.
1. Tom Murphy, our current school superintendent. I know of no one who has more integrity and credibility than Mr. Murphy. He will be retiring soon from his position with the school system. He has clearly demonstrated the ability and wisdom to lead a large organization represented by unions. He knows Federal Way. I believe he would have to move a few blocks to qualify as a Federal Way resident, but that could happen. I don’t believe the analogy is too far off that Tom Murphy could be to Federal Way as we transition to elected mayor what George Washington was to the United States as our first elected president.
2. Bob Roegner. Bob served ably as Auburn’s mayor for 12 years, if memory serves me correctly. He moved to Federal Way and has been an insightful contributor to the community in both written commentary and Boys and Girls Club leadership. He is involved in other aspects of the community as well. I would certainly trust his candidacy.
3. Skip Priest. I served with Skip on the Federal Way City Council in the 1990s. He was rational, engaging and thoughtful. He now represents Federal Way in the state House, but might consider a run to be our mayor.
4. Jim Ferrell. Jim supports the change to strong mayor and has announced his intention to run if Proposition 1 passes. He is vilified for that stand by the other six council members who took a stand to support the current council/manager form. Go figure!
There are other potential candidates — Tom Pierson, Jack Dovey, Tracey Eide, etc. These are hardly degenerates with sixth-grade educations who will be pawns in the hands of special interests. That charge could appropriately be placed at the feet of council members who buckled and switched their votes when faced with vocal minority special interests opposing a downtown library, and the 312th Street/I-5 exit proposals.
No, I am afraid the opponents of a change to strong mayor have offered hollow arguments. I believe supporting Proposition 1 will usher in a new, exciting and truly dynamic chapter in Federal Way’s history.