State law allows direct election of the mayor under Prop 1

The column written by Battle Ground City Councilors Michael Ciraulo and Adrian Cortes was interesting commentary but plainly wrong when they state: “[i]n July 2013 a majority coalition arbitrarily changed our form of government…” The Battle Ground City Council cannot change their form of government. That takes a vote of the people. My understanding of what Ciraulo and Cortes are upset about is the procedures the Battle Ground Council adopted to elect their mayor. They don’t make any complaints about their city management, in fact they seem to compliment it.

Likewise, the centerpiece of the opponents of Proposition 1 in Washougal is whether the mayor is directly elected by the voters or not. They don’t say much of anything about how the mayor’s duties differ between Washougal’s system and city manager systems like Battle Ground’s. They don’t discuss what professional management a city manager system brings to a city or how it might be an improvement over the amateur management of a part-time mayor. They just want you to think that all this does is take away the voters’ power to elect the mayor.

But Washougal voters can elect their Mayor under Proposition 1.

State law provides an option for direct voter election of the mayor if the council manager form passes and the voters decide they want to resume electing their mayor directly. I am in a pretty unique position to give Washougal voters that choice and as soon as possible. Consider this column my commitment to doing that.

Some council manager cities already elect their mayors directly. In Washington State manager cities Vancouver, Tacoma, and Olympia the voters elect the mayor. Vancouver and Tacoma operate under city charters. Olympia operates as a code city manager city as Washougal would become if Proposition 1 passes.

Moving to direct election of the mayor would be done in two steps after Proposition 1 passes. First, the council would place on the ballot a measure under Revised Code of Washington Section 35A. 13.033, which, if passed by the voters, would have the effect of direct voter election of the mayor. That measure would probably be voted on in November 2014. I commit to working with my fellow councilors to putting such a measure on the ballot. If the measure passed, it would designate Council Position One as Chairman of the Council and the person elected by the voters to that newly-designated position would receive the title of Mayor but without the administrative and management duties the current mayor has. The mayor would be directly elected but would not have veto power, control over information staff provides to council, or use of city resources.

The second step would be my resignation from the council. I hold Position One on the Council. But I am not interested in being Mayor. I am interested, however, in having the voters decide who the mayor is as quickly as possible. Since I hold the position that could be designated mayor under the manager system (and am unopposed for retention to the position this Fall), I can play a part in making direct election of the mayor happen sooner rather than later. I will time my resignation from my council seat to make election of the mayor possible in November, 2015.

We have received a preliminary opinion from Municipal Research Services that a special election for Position One after it has been designated the Mayor’s position, could be an election for a new Mayor under the council manager system. If the MRSC opinion stands, Proposition 1 passes, and the voters determine to directly elect the Mayor in November 2014, I will resign my position so the voters can directly elect the Mayor in 2015. I believe my resignation would have to take place by sometime in May of 2015.

I have enjoyed being a Councilor and do not want to resign. But I am willing to step aside for the good of the community if they want to continue to directly elect the mayor—as I hope they would. My stepping aside would mean that we would have a council-appointed mayor for only a two-year transition under the new system.

This is the best for Washougal.

Brent Boger is a member of the Washougal City Council.