Puyallup Herald

Puyallup City Council backs off proposal to change form of government to strong mayor

A proposal that would have placed a strong mayor initiative on the special election ballot in April lost steam Tuesday after Puyallup City Council decided to table the issue.
A proposal that would have placed a strong mayor initiative on the special election ballot in April lost steam Tuesday after Puyallup City Council decided to table the issue. Courtesy

A proposal to place a strong mayor initiative on the special election ballot in April lost steam Tuesday after Puyallup City Council decided to table the issue.

The council unanimously approved a motion to terminate any further discussion of changing the city’s form of government from a city manager style of government to an elected strong mayor.

Instead, Councilman Dean Johnson suggested returning the issue “back to the initiative process” and for “the voters of Puyallup to decide whether or not it has enough signatures to place it on the ballot.”

The suggestion to change the form of government first started as a petition by a group of residents. The petition failed to reach 5,000 required signatures by the special election deadline.

David Prutzman, who championed the petition, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Councilman Jim Kastama, Deputy Mayor Tom Swanson and Councilwoman Cynthia Jacobsen voiced support Tuesday for placing the strong mayor measure on the ballot.

“I think it’s time Puyallup has a leader they elect,” Kastama said at the meeting. “They can hold them accountable just how they hold us accountable up here.”

dean johnson mug Lee Giles.JPG
Puyallup Councilman Dean Johnson LEE GILES III lgiles@gateline.com

Council members Julie Door and Robin Farris and Mayor John Palmer opposed the idea, arguing they didn’t receive requests for a change in government from any of their constituents.

“I do not support at all taking the power and putting it into one person,” Door said.

Johnson said at Tuesday’s meeting that his main concern was the potential divisiveness that could stem from changing the form of government from the council level.

“My concern is for the bigger picture,” he said. “Will this be an issue that will divide the council and divide our constituent base? … I’m concerned with that sense of unity, and I want to preserve that as much as possible.”

Johnson was the “swing vote” on whether an election resolution would be placed on an upcoming ballot.

The original time line was to put a resolution on the April 23 special election ballot, with a mayor election in November. Some denounced the idea, saying it was too fast.

Kastama suggested an alternate time line at Tuesday’s meeting, which would put a resolution on the November general election with a mayor election in April, if passed.

The city of Puyallup has been a council-manager form of government since 1951 and selects its mayor based on seniority of council members. The city manager, a position held by Kevin Yamamoto since 2015, operates the city with direction from Council.

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