November Election: Proposition 1

After several earlier efforts at incorporation were attempted, a mail-in vote for incorporation of the City of SeaTac on March 14, 1989 passed by 52.4 percent. It created a council-manager form of government with a largely ceremonial mayor chosen from the city council. The newly created city’s first mayor, retired pilot Frank Hansen, was fond of explaining that there were two factions on the first council and that he was chosen because he was an outsider to both.

It seems that history of turmoil and bickering continues today as some form of dissenting opinions are still thriving and generating controversy with allegations of election fraud, mishandling of funds, and the attempted use of eminent domain to take private property for economic development. Justification for a team consisting of citizens and council members to undergo a fourth time attempt to overturn the city’s current council-manager form of government in favor of a strong mayor-council arrangement.

Weighing The Claims
We hope the following information will help you to cast an informed decision on Proposition 1 in November.

Arguments For the Mayor-Council Form
  • This is the form of government that is familiar to most Americans because it is patterned after our traditional national and state governments  (***). There is a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. There is a claim of checks and balances.
  • Also separation of powers provides healthy independence, debate and creative tension. Separate legislative and executive branches provide the best opportunity for debate and consensus building.
  • By electing, rather than appointing a mayor, political leadership is established. The city has a political spokesperson who has a high degree of visibility.
  • Some argue that an elected mayor will have a higher standing and greater voice in regional affairs of the city.
  • In most cities the mayor is vested with the veto power, and can serve as a check on an unpopular council decision.
  • A professional administrator can be hired to assist the mayor in the management of the city's operations thereby freeing the mayor to concentrate on political leadership or to offset weaknesses in the mayor's management background or experience, but the mayor is still ultimately responsible. 

Arguments Against the Mayor-Council Form
  • The office of the mayor gives too much power and authority to one person. It permits an incumbent to make decisions based largely on political considerations, and to use the office to further personal political objectives.
  • The qualities needed to win an election are not the same qualities needed to manage a modern city. A mayor while politically astute may not always possess the necessary management training and experience.
  • If an elected mayor proves to be incompetent or worse, he/she cannot be removed until the end of their term, or through an expensive and divisive recall election process.
  • A separately elected mayor may resist requests from the council. The mayor may attempt to isolate the council by controlling staff, information, and reports; "turf wars".

Additional Resources:
  • A quick comparison snapshot between the two forms of city government is available on the MRSC web site.
  • Voters Pamphlets containing For; Against; and Rebutted statements

(***) Editor's comments: The claim is that the Mayor-Council form of government is the most familiar form  to most American's - follow this link for some surprising City Government statistics.

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