Snohomish has been well-served by city-manager system since ‘73

Morgan Davis’s letter to the editor of Jan. 13, “Manager system needs rethinking,” is so filled with misinformation about the management of the City of Snohomish that I can conclude only that his goal must be character assassination aimed at our city manager in order to undermine faith in our form of government.

Our city council evaluates the city manager’s performance annually and has repeatedly given him high marks in every performance area. His accomplishments for our community over 13 years are many, but Mr. Davis concentrates his misinformed attacks narrowly in only a few areas. I’d like to correct each of Mr. Davis’s wild departures from reality:

1. He states that the city spent $300,000 to determine if the Snohomish Senior Center could be allowed to build its new center on a formerly active pioneer cemetery donated to the city for use by the seniors in the 1980s. This is a site where the state Department of Transportation had supposedly removed gravesites in 1947 to build U.S. 2. The reality: In 2004 the city council contracted for a $99,700 archaeological examination of the property as required by a 1998 court order. This examination discovered many gravesites had not been removed, so the city worked with the Senior Center Board to remove its buildings and build a new center on a different city-owned property.

2. He claims our city manager is overpaid by wrongly stating his salary is equivalent to that of the Mill Creek city manager. The reality: Our city manager’s salary is 9 percent lower and his scope of responsibilities somewhat broader.

3. He thinks it’s a bad thing that our council and city manager have what he calls a “symbiotic” working relationship. The reality: An effective working relationship between appointed staff and elected officials makes us a team aimed at serving our community. If our council had been in constant conflict with our city manager he would not have held this position for 13 years.

4. He seems to believe the decision to place a Metropolitan Parks District (MPD) measure before the voters in 2015 was promoted solely by the city manager. The reality: The City Council made this decision after more than a year of examining various options for parks funding, and the MPD was only one of many options presented initially by the city manager.

All of these decisions were made by the city council and not by the city manager. The city manager’s role includes providing staff analysis but his authority is only to implement the city council’s policies. If he doesn’t do so he can be fired on short notice. That’s not the case in a strong mayor form of government that Mr. Davis supports. Once elected, a strong mayor can be recalled by voters only if a superior court judge first determines the mayor has committed acts of misfeasance, malfeasance or a violation of oath of office. If not, the community could be stuck with a bad mayor for four years.

Our form of government in Snohomish was chosen by the voters in 1973, and I believe their choice was a wise one that continues to work best for our community. I see the council-manager form of government we use as the best balance of elected representation and professional administration, and I would like to keep it that way.

In my experience, Mr. Davis has a long history of misrepresentation, and as a result, continues a contentious relationship with both council and our city staff. He would do well to check the facts prior to his letters to the editor, and prior to his comments at council.

Karen Guzak was re-elected to the Snohomish city council in 2015. The council recently reappointed her as mayor for her fourth two-year term.

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