In Office Since January 2010

The Case FOR Proposition # 1 – Continuity and Accountability

The council-manager form of government proposed by Proposition # 1 corrects a current organizational problem with Washougal City government. It spreads oversight of city management among seven elected council members instead of concentrating it in one elected, part-time mayor. The benefits are three-fold.

First, this proposed system provides continuity of purpose. We tend not to reelect mayors (only once in over a century), resulting in changing directions, priorities, and political agendas every four years. The city mission is to provide a limited number of basic municipal services, like public safety (police, fire, and ambulance), water, sewers, roads and streets, parks, planning, etc. Diving headlong into the United Nations’ Agenda 21 with its emphasis on global climate issues, or getting involved in urban redevelopment is beyond our resources and purpose. Recent administrations have indulged in such distractions. They have been able to do so because the city administrator reports directly to and takes direction solely from the mayor.

Second, Proposition # 1 provides for continuity of effort. A city manager replaces the city administrator and performs many of the same tasks. The difference is his level of authority and independence. The city manager takes mission guidance from the council specifying the goals to be achieved, then exercises independence and initiative to get the job done. The council measures the city manager’s performance using performance metrics. It is this level of independence and initiative that ensures continuity of effort. The composition of councils generally changes slowly – so will the guidance. And as the council slowly evolves, the city manager will provide a continuing mission focus on basic municipal services.

Third, accountability is retained by the council members, who are ultimately responsible to the voters. By law, the council may not interfere in city operations. They may specify what needs to be done, but cannot tell the city manager how to do it. Council members are far from powerless, however.

Under Proposition #1, the council retains budget authority, the ultimate restraint on city managers. Also, if the city manager is unable to meet the council’s performance standards, the council has the authority to replace him. Few city managers in Washington State are terminated for cause. That is a good track record for the council-manager form of government!

Having studied this proposal for a council-manager form of government and found it generally superior to our present mayor-council form, I urge you to vote YES on Proposition #1 in November.