Elected mayor forum heats up

Readers debate both sides of elected mayor proposal, which is up for a vote on Feb. 19

  • Saturday, April 26, 2008 8:02am
  • Opinion

Keep current system intact

The present form of city government provides many more benefits than negatives. We have a professional manager, who is recruited from a national base of applications from people who want the job.

By rotating the mayor’s job through the Federal Way City Council, each elected member gains experience, meets more voters and has the opportunity and responsibility of speaking for and to a city of voters.

Our city manager, who works for not only the citizens of Federal Way, but directly for the city council, must maintain a good working relationship with the city council — and not have the power struggles that other elected mayor-city councils have experienced.

While the elected mayor provides from a small pool of possible candidates, just look at how few run for city council and school board. Once elected, the voters have a person they must live with for four years — good, bad or otherwise.

Elected mayors cannot be removed by a vote of the city council, and recall elections cost a lot of money; few are successful and leave a much divided electorate in their wake.

Would the pride felt by the Korean citizens when Mike Park was our mayor have happened under an elected mayor?

For these and more reasons, I support our present system.

Larry L. Jackson, Federal Way


The Good Buddy Society

On Dec. 19, Barbara Reid (self-anointed ruler of the group Federal Way Works) comes to the voters of Federal Way with a long diatribe of how her organization would like the city government to function, culminating in their insistence that an elected mayor is wrong.

In other words, seven existing good buddies of the current city council can flip a coin and decide among themselves who is going to be mayor.

For some strange reason, members of Federal Way Works believe that some 85,000-plus voters in this town are far too stupid to make that decision.

Think about it: Is it better to have a party of seven elect the mayor of this big town, or is it better to have far more and greater input and fairness by having some 85,000-plus voters make the call?

In fact, why do we have to have the same old faces on this council year after year, some of whom were good buddy appointments by other buddies without going through the election process.

Barbara Reid’s anti-elected mayor organization is a real “who’s-who” of the politicos in Federal Way who insist that they will tell you, the voters, what to do in this town and how it’s going to be, whether you like it or not.

Just reading through the list of names she included at the end of her long diatribe describes the makeup of her group, Federal Way Works, which I have re-named The Good Buddy Society (TGBS). You’ve all seen these same names over the years: Reid, Kaplan, Burbidge, Gintz, Gates, LaPorte, Kaufman, Miloscia, Stavney, Priest, et al — to name but a few. The list is much longer.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an elected mayor in Federal Way to run the different operating departments. Don’t be intimidated by the TGBS — vote for an elected mayor when the vote comes up on Feb. 19.

If you sit home and do nothing, you may regret your decision later.

Ken Shattock, Federal Way


Letters, letters, letters

On Jan. 2, the Federal Way Mirror printed a letter from me concerning the argument over a strong mayor vs. the status quo. I made a mistake in my letter. I do know better. Of course the council is elected at large.

In my anger at one letter writer’s insult to the citizens of Federal Way, I wrote hastily. Ron Gintz was kind enough to point that out in a letter Jan. 5. But the substance of my letter went unchallenged.

Did you notice the elitist condescension of Gintz’s letter? That is so typical of him and the people he supports and hob-nobs with. These elitists are the people who run Federal Way. God help anyone who gets in their way. Gintz never addressed any of my points. He just tried to put me down.

Well, Ronnie, it didn’t work.

My fellow citizens, it is time we take control of City Hall. We need a strong elected mayor.

Patrick J. Watson, Federal Way


Advice from a strong mayor

As a mayor in a strong mayor form of government, this may seem peculiar that I do not support the proposal to change Federal Way’s form of government.

I believe that regardless of politics, government and its leadership must strive to provide what is right for the citizens, not what is politically expedient.

The current council-manager form of government provides daily administrative leadership that is separate from political whims. A city manager is a recognized professional leader who depends on wisdom based on education and training in governmental management. With few exceptions, most elected mayors do not have the depth of knowledge that is often required to manage a modern city. In those cases, they must hire additional staff such as a city administrator to assist with the day-to-day operations. This does not appear to be cost effective.

It is also important to have administrative leadership that is not as subject to political change. With the change of a strong mayor, good or bad, upheaval of staffing and direction is almost a certainty. City managers can provide a more consistent and professional hand in guiding a city through a change in leadership. Managers are still accountable to the people through the city council members they elect.

Finally, I want to mention that professional city managers are governed by a code of ethics that was written and adopted in 1924. This code is based on trust, integrity, competence, professionalism and the belief in doing what is right for citizens. Isn’t this something we all want to see in government? Note: The code of ethics can be found at www.icma.org.

Richard Hildreth, Mayor, City of Pacific


To mayor or not to mayor

With the “strong” possibility of having a strong mayor pretty soon, I think it is important to bring a few aspects to light.

It was pointed out that by having an elected mayor, we could put ourselves into a position where the mayoral race is nothing more than a popularity contest, but isn’t that really what we have already? In a popularity contest, the most popular person gets the vote regardless of whether they are most qualified.

Of our current city council, there are maybe two that I would elect as a mayor. They are fine as a measure of good will, but to run the city as mayor? No way! In this way, there wouldn’t be much change except that the citizens of Federal Way would get to decide who they think would best run our city.

I truly believe the citizens of Federal Way are smarter than we are being given credit for. The fact that most of our city council does not support a strong mayor does not surprise me. After all, if you had power over your subjects, would you want to lose that?

Keep in mind that it is the same city council that selected Neal Beets as the city manager. I think it is a tad humorous that the very city council that hired our city manager gave him a “lukewarm” or mediocre rating as per the Tacoma News Tribune on Oct. 6, 2007. For those who claim that having a strong mayor (elected by the people) will cost a lot of money… it just isn’t so.

A strong mayor would relieve responsibilities from folks like the lukewarm city manager and thus the “relieved” city manager would simply not be paid as much.

The city manager as well as any other positions that lost responsibilities would receive a reduction in pay or better yet, would be replaced by a less expensive city administrator. That’s where the money would come in for a strong mayor. This would also cut back on redundancy in the city employees’ work and some of the bone-head spending would be curtailed, saving even more money. At this point, a full-time mayor is really not even necessary, yet those who oppose a strong mayor would have you believe that there is no other choice.

Then there is the issue of how to get rid of a mayor that was ineffective, unfair or that held an allegiance of sorts to those who helped him or her get elected. The idea is that an elected mayor would be hard to get rid of. I guess there is that possibility, just like there is now with our current city council members.

Unless the mayor was committing serious crimes that would result in him or her being removed from office, we would have to do just what we do now… wait until the next election, just as we do for our council members. At least with an elected mayor, there will be a lot more people aware of what the mayor is and is not responsible for. We the people deserve to be able to have someone that will ultimately be held accountable. If that person doesn’t perform, you can bet that he or she won’t be re-elected.

I truly believe the only way to recover from the loss of so many businesses and so many panhandlers, as well as many other issues holding Federal Way back, is to have an elected mayor.

If the public believes a mayor makes bad decisions, I would be willing to bet that they won’t vote for that mayor again. It is a type of natural selection, if you will. Having an extra level of checks and balances is a good thing. That will help keep things on the up and up. If the city council was doing such a smashing job, this initiative would never even have come up.

Lastly, for those claiming that this whole thing was just a matter of a disgruntled citizen… there were more than 3,200 signatures for a strong mayor — far more than required, so I would have to think it was more than one disgruntled citizen.

Gayla Hardison, Federal Way


Remember neighborhoods

I have been a resident of Federal Way for almost 50 years.

I spent many hours over the past year out on the street gathering signatures on a recent petition. Believe me, people are dissatisfied with the way this city is being run. I am also dissatisfied because of some personal experiences over recent years.

My first experience was with three houses on my street that were a mess with junk in the front yards — junk cars, etc. After trying to work with my neighbors with minimal change, it took over a year of numerous trips to City Hall and attending City Council meetings to get the city to step in an take action in the matter. Even then, I constantly received excuses that it would take too much time and cost too much money to enforce their own rules.

The first code compliance officer assigned to my complaint issued one ticket, but shortly after left the job. The next code compliance officer left in 2007, having never issued any tickets dealing with this matter.

My most recent experience has been with a storm drain on my street that backed up, spilling over into my property and my neighbors. It was plugged at the mouth where it spills out into a large, undeveloped lot behind our properties. After much talking and looking at plat maps, the city was finally able to locate the drain on the map. Again, I was met with excuses trying to divert responsibility from the city to the owner of the undeveloped lot. After more discussions with the city, they finally agreed to clear the drain and resolve the problem.

As far as my dealings with the current city council, I feel they have an agenda that doesn’t include listening to the people of Federal Way. It doesn’t make much sense spending all our efforts and money trying to improve the image of the downtown portion of the city if the neighborhoods where we actually live are being so poorly neglected. That is what will make this city a place where people will want to live. It won’t matter how you dress up the city center if you let our neighborhoods decline from neglect.

Norma L. Blanchard, Federal Way

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