By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — Voters are turning down a ballot measure to fundamentally change the way power is wielded and decisions made at City Hall.
Proposition 1, which would toss out Lynnwood’s current form of government and demote Mayor Don Gough in the process, was losing 54 percent to 46 percent in the initial round of ballot counting. There were 2,005 votes cast against the measure and 1,692 for it.
“I’m disappointed,” said Ron Siddell, a leader of People for a Better Lynnwood, which campaigned for Proposition 1. “It’s eight points. That’s telling me a lot. At this moment I’m pessimistic.”
Snohomish County election officials said Tuesday’s vote totals account for less than half the final turnout countywide. The next update of results will be released later Wednesday.
Gough said Tuesday night that the voters of Lynnwood had spoken.
“It’s in the best interest (of) our city, and finally time, for all of us together to focus our efforts on meeting the many challenges we have and to grasp the many opportunities that lie before us.”
City Councilman Mark Smith, one of the leading voices against the ballot measure, was understandably pleased.
“I’m hopeful that after this election everyone can put this aside and do what’s best for the city,” he said.
Proposition 1 would end the city’s practice of directly electing a mayor to serve as the city’s chief executive officer. In its place, the City Council would hire a city manager to oversee Lynnwood’s day-to-day operations.
If passed, Gough would become an eighth council member for the last two years of his term. He’d lose his $95,617-a-year full-time mayoral salary and begin earning $1,650 a month — for an annual $19,800 salary — as a part-time council member.
Gough, after months of public silence on the measure, sent mailers to hundreds of voters in the final days of the campaign urging them to reject Proposition 1.
He contended in the four-page mailer that politics drove five members of the City Council to vote in January to put it on the ballot.
But those in People for a Better Lynnwood began their push for change in 2010 out of frustration with Gough’s handling of the city’s staggering budget deficit and the investigation into his stormy relations with some female employees.
Siddell and other members first wanted to try to recall Gough then switched strategies. The group spent nearly $22,000 trying to convince voters the reform measure would ensure the city is managed professionally and not politically.
It’s unclear exactly how much money went in to fight Proposition 1.
Gough reported spending roughly $3,000 on the mailers he created and sent out. There also was a political committee, No on Proposition 1, which paid for signs and other materials. Records with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicate it did not intend to raise or spend more than $5,000.
Reporter Mina Williams with The Weekly Herald contributed to this story.