Forum: Mayor-council form of government

The letters just keep pouring in regarding the proposed change to Federal Way's government

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

Let’s vote for our mayor

This letter is in response to the Jan. 9 letter submitted by Larry Jackson.

I was one of the people who went out into our community collecting signatures, and most of the people I spoke with were only too happy to sign it. So there must be a lot of people out there who feel that this job could be done better by an elected official.

In case anyone is not aware of it, yes, an elected mayor would be elected from the citizens of our community. Hopefully that will ensure that this individual will bring into the position the pride and concern that is warranted. We will still have a city administrator who would still be selected from a national database, if that’s the city’s decision, and who would still have to prove their credentials are worthy.

Who knows — we might end up retaining Neal Beets in this position, if it’s decided that would be in the best interest of our community. I don’t think it’s realistic to believe anyone hired to be a city administrator would have any less desire to maintain a good working relationship with the different departments within the city simply because their title changed; that just doesn’t make sense.

The appointed mayor right now, Jack Dovey, was selected from a very limited pool of candidates, wouldn’t you agree?

Frankly I’m confused about your last paragraph, Larry. Is it part of our mayor’s job to cater to any one of the ethnic groups that comprise our population? Or are you saying that former Mayor Mike Park couldn’t win in a fair election? Or are you simply trying to manipulate the vote of our Korean citizens?

For these and so many more reasons please vote yes to having a strong mayor in our city. It’s time to make a choice now. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Tara A. Talley, Federal Way

—-

Epitomizing bureaucracy

Proponents of the mayor-council form of government assert a strong mayor form is “constitutional” while the council-manager form is “bureaucratic.”

That is hyperbole. It attaches convenient labels designed to make the form they favor sound “good” and the other sound “bad.” The Constitution of the United States sets forth the form of government at the federal level only, not the state or local level. One only need read the entire Constitution, Bill of Rights and Amendments to conclude it doesn’t address forms of government at the state and local level at all.

To the contrary, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution clearly states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

To imply there is anything unconstitutional or less than constitutional about a council-manager form of government is ludicrous and self-serving. The idea that Federal Way city government should somehow emulate the form of the federal government given the fraud, waste, abuse, bureaucracy and partisan gridlock in the other Washington is misguided. Our federal and state governments, touted by local group Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) as constitutional, epitomize bureaucracy at its worst. Special interests have derailed the concept of “We the people” to “We, the big corporations and special interest groups with paid lobbyists who contribute lots of money.”

We are a local government, not a national or state government. We have a form of government in Federal Way that ensures a high level of efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness and professional service led by a qualified CEO. Progressive local governments throughout the United States have embraced the council-manager form of government for over 60 years and with good reason. More than 92 million individuals live in 9,620 cities operating under council-manager government; 63 percent of U.S. cities with populations of 25,000 or more operate under the council-manager form. Strong mayor-Council governments are found mostly in very big or very small cities. In many of those cities, in addition to the strong mayor, they also have a city administrator adding a layer of bureaucracy and costs.

ACT frequently mentions the creation of the municipal court as being an additional branch of government that provides a system of checks and balances on city government. Given the narrow and limited jurisdiction of the municipal court, that is simply more hyperbole. Pursuant to state law, the municipal court judge is authorized to preside over civil and traffic infractions, criminal misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, and civil vehicle impound hearings. The municipal court has no authority to intervene or act on any matter the city council implements except as it relates to the prosecution of municipal ordinance violations.

If someone didn’t like an action the council took they couldn’t petition the municipal court for relief and the municipal court would lack any jurisdiction in that regard. No checks and balances there I can see. I believe the record reflects the underlying reasons the municipal court came about had nothing to do with creating a second branch of government to provide a system of checks and balances on city government, but rather the logistical and economic issues related to dealing with an overburdened district court that was relocated out of Federal Way.

It is important to understand the ramifications of the change voters are being asked to make. I am confident that once informed, voters will see the pitfalls of the ill-advised ballot initiative ACT has advanced and vote no.

Jerry Vaughn, Federal Way


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