Thank you, Yakima City Council, for having the courage to let voters decide in February if they are satisfied with the way City Hall works or if it is time to make a change — if we want an elected mayor.
An elected mayor system works like our state does. The City Council (Legislature) makes the laws and the mayor (governor) runs the day-to-day operations.
As a longtime community volunteer, eight-year member of the Yakima City Council and two-term ceremonial mayor, let me say this: Our city will not reach its potential until we replace our city-
manager system of government. It lacks the focused leadership and accountability needed.
This election is about 10 weeks away. Take that time to learn about our elected mayor proposal, developed by Bruce Smith, county Commissioner Mike Leita and me. Learn why we think it makes sense to elect the person who runs City Hall and why we think it makes sense to have at least one elected city official who is politically answerable to all of Yakima, not just one district.
Please take the time to study this issue before you make a decision. We welcome the review because much of what you may have heard is wrong.
For example, the mayor in our plan is not a member of the City Council. He or she does not participate in council debates, other than to answer questions, and never votes, even to break a tie.
The City Council, under our plan, has control over the budget, which is the most important power there is in government.
Under the current system, the city manager hires and fires all city employees. Under our plan, the City Council must confirm all top-level managers.
Our proposal does not require higher executive salaries. The city staff is led now by two well-paid professionals, a city manager and an assistant city manager. Under our plan, the city will — at about the same cost — be run by an elected mayor and city administrator. The mayor will provide leadership and the administrator will provide technical expertise.
Now is the perfect time to have this vote. We are between city managers, and the current interim city manager has just a six-month employment agreement. We were able to get a slot on the February ballot, which greatly reduces the cost. And, important, we have enough time — if the measure passes — to elect a mayor in 2020 and to see him or her sworn in on Jan. 1, 2021.
Until we change how City Hall is run, we cannot expect different results. For two decades we have blamed our problems on various City Council members or city managers. The problem is the system, not the people, and we owe it to our community and future generations to fix it.