This party works, and so does Federal Way

By Angie Vogt, political commentary

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

By Angie Vogt, political commentary

Since high school, I’ve been a political junkie.

I’ve always enjoyed the sport of it, somewhat like a rabid sports fan. While I haven’t resorted to face painting for my team, when election season comes around my mood rises and falls according to how my candidate is doing. On a national and statewide level, it’s mostly a spectator sport and we rely on the news media to keep us informed (or misinformed).

A common misconception about politics is that partisanship is a bad thing. Independents like to brag on this concept, often claiming to be non-partisan. “I vote for the man, not the party,” they’ll say. That’s a fine idea, except that “the man,” or woman as the case may be, comes with a party attached — and that party works and pays to get their candidate elected.

In the end, voting for any candidate is a vote for the party. So, since high school I’ve made it my policy to study the platforms closely of each party before I select a candidate. Then I look at that candidate’s record and decide how closely he or she represents the “party values,” along with other things such as likability, professional background and personal integrity.

My point is, having a bias is not a bad thing. Everybody has one, whether they admit it or not. In recent years, I’ve started paying attention to local issues and candidates, and I’ve learned that local politics has a humanizing influence. It’s hard to “take sides” or engage in partisan rhetoric with people you see every day.

In local politics, we argue for certain things, but instead of turning off the TV or radio, we find those who oppose us very likely are teaching in our kids’ schools, going to our same church or maybe even live next door. It’s hard to have a partisan view about libraries, public utilities and your neighborhood schools.

On Jan. 16, I attended the debate at Federal Way High School regarding Federal Way’s upcoming decision on whether to change our current form of government. Several citizens have been unhappy that they don’t get to elect a mayor directly, like most cities. I have my suspicions about this “group.” They’d prefer a politician had the administrative and executive authority over the council rather than our current form of city council (seven elected members) that directs and oversees the work of a city manager.

For almost 20 years, the city has operated with a professional city manager that works for a seven-member city council. Our city council conducted a nationwide search to find our current city manager, Neal Beets.

Beets has a bachelor’s degree in political science, a law degree, 12 years of experience as a city attorney and certification for city management by the International City Management Association, which I’m told is an in-depth training program that prepares its candidates on the most complex functions of city management.

I went to the debate completely uninformed about the pros and cons of either side. I was ready and willing to hear both sides. I’m sorry to say I left with a clear understanding of only one side, the “Federal Way Works” side, which opposes the change.

Federal Way Works is a group of local citizens from a variety of political persuasions who prefer to keep things unchanged and avoid the prospect of politicizing city management. The only argument for the pro-elected mayor side was that citizens would have a voice in choosing their mayor and therefore the mayor would be accountable to the citizens, not the city council.

With a job as complicated

and demanding as city management, I’m having a hard time understanding the benefits of turning it into an elected position, where a candidate would presumably come attached to a band of people who helped elect him (or her) and their list of pet issues and favors. The winning candidate is obligated to his supporters and will not be objective in performing the functions of the city. The best “vote getter” is not ample qualification to run the city.

The “pro-elected mayor” side could not explain its position without resorting to sarcasm, unsubstantiated accusations and anecdotes about the current council’s incompetence.

Well, since the current council is elected, if they are so incompetent, perhaps this group should focus their efforts on putting up a new candidate that represents their views to the city council. Count my vote for the Federal Way Works party.

Federal Way resident Angie Vogt can be reached at vogt.e@comcast.net.


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