Special Reports

Strong mayor petitions given to city clerk

Five members of the Time for A Change petition drive delivered 7,136 signatures to the city clerk Tuesday, hoping to toss out Tacoma's city manager form of government and replace it with the strong mayor form.

Petition supporters need 7,029 valid signatures of registered voters to put a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Co-sponsor Sherry Bockwinkel said supporters hope to turn in at least 12,000 signatures to allow for those rejected as invalid.

Time for A Change sponsors intend to continue collecting signatures through this weekend. They also urged others with signed petitions to turn them in to City Clerk Doris Sorum by Monday.

Although Sorum said there is no absolute deadline for petitions to be turned in, she has set a target date of Tuesday in order to have enough time to verify signatures and meet other deadlines for the November ballot.

If voters approve the measure, Mayor Bill Baarsma would become the city's chief executive officer Jan. 1. His council seat would be filled by appointment to bring the council up to nine members through 2005.

On Jan. 1, 2006, both the temporary seat and council at-large Position 6 would disappear, shrinking the number of council members to seven.

"This will create more accountability in government," said initiative co-sponsor Rick Cvitanich. "Right now, as long as he (the city manager) has five of his buddies in the palm of his hand, he's not going anywhere."

Under current city law, the City Council hires and fires the city manager, who acts as Tacoma's chief executive. A majority of the nine-member council, or five votes, can decide the manager's fate.

If the Time for A Change charter amendments are voted in, an elected mayor would run the city and be accountable to the voters, Bockwinkel said.

Meanwhile, East Side activist Doug Delin announced that he and others are beginning a petition drive to make the city attorney's job elected.

Delin said he thinks a city attorney "answerable to constituents" would be free to tell the people their business, rather than filtering everything through the City Council.

Delin sponsored a drive to put the city's gay rights law to a vote last year, but his issue lost at the ballot box in November. He hopes to put his city attorney issue on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The city attorney currently is appointed by the city manager. Seattle is believed to be the only city in the state with an elected attorney.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659