Edmonds City Council member Michael Plunkett confirmed Wednesday that he will ask the council to consider placing a measure before Edmonds voters to change the city’s governance structure from a mayor-council to city manager-council form of government.
Plunkett said that he believes the timing is right to introduce such a measure, since Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson is nearing the end of his third term and has already stated he doesn’t plan to run again. (Haakenson’s term expires at the end of 2011.) If approved by the council, the measure is likely to appear on the November 2010 ballot.
Plunkett’s reason for suggesting a change? ” I think it will make the council closer to the people of Edmonds and more responsive,” he said, adding there was no specific incident or concern that prompted his decision. Plunkett also said he has no idea whether the majority of the council will support placing the idea on the ballot.
“It’s something that I’ve had on my mind for several years,” Plunkett said. “Since Gary is in his last term, it seemed like the most appropriate time.”
Under state law, if the measure were approved in November, the new form of government would take over once all votes were certified, Plunkett said. But the law also states that the current mayor will serve the remainder of his term as a councilmember (meaning the Edmonds Council would temporarily increase in size from seven members to eight). In that case, Plunkett said that he would support electing Haakenson to serve as mayor of the council for the remainder of his term, “although the role would be much different since the city manager runs the city,” he added.
According to the Seattle-based Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, Washington state cities and towns are organized under three principal forms of government: the mayor-council form, the council-manager form and the commission form. Of Washington’s 281 cities and towns, 227 (81 percent) operate under the mayor-council form, 53 (18 percent) have adopted the council-manager form, and 1 (less than 1 percent) operates under the commission form.
The council-manager form consists of an elected city council that is responsible for making policy, plus a professional city manager — essentially the CEO of the city — who is appointed by the council and is responsible for administration. “The city manager provides policy advice, directs the daily operations of city government, handles personnel functions (including the power to appoint and remove employees) and is responsible for preparing the city budget. Under the council-manager statutes, the city council is prohibited from interfering with the manager’s administration. The city manager, however, is directly accountable to and can be removed by a majority vote of the council at any time,” the MSRC said.
The mayor in council-manager cities is generally selected by the city council, and the person selected must also be a councilmember.