Letters to the Editor

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TACOMA: City manager system must change

Letter by Anders Ibsen, Tacoma on April 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm with 11 Comments »
April 28, 2011 1:03 pm

Eight years ago, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame shot his wife and himself in front of his two children. That alone was a senseless tragedy. But the real scandal was the cover-up that had preceded this murder-suicide for years.

City manager Ray Corpuz had been informed of Brame’s erratic and abusive behavior and did nothing to discipline or remove his dysfunctional subordinate. In the end, the City Council fired Corpuz in the wake of the tragedy. He still collects $101,392 in annual retirement benefits from our city, and will do so for the rest of his life.

City Manager Eric Anderson’s deception relating to the Zina Linnik investigation is disturbing enough. But what’s even more troubling is the repeating pattern of unaccountable cover-ups made possible by the structure of the city manager system.

If a mayor commits such an offense under a mayor-council system, the people can simply fire the mayor and start over. But the people can’t fire a city manager. In our present system, nine part-time council members with staggered terms, fed cherry-picked information from city staff who work for the city manager, are in no position to hold him accountable.

Firing the present city manager doesn’t go far enough. We need to ensure that unaccountable bureaucrats can never again wield this kind of power. The system itself needs to change.

(Ibsen has declared his intent to run for Tacoma City Council Position 1.)

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. I disagree with you Anders. I think a professional manager is the way to go over some elected candidate, Washam, who has no management experience.

    I cringe when I think of having Strickland as a strong mayor. Remember she went on a paid trip in violation of city ethics.

    Both city managers have done good things for the city. So you can’t just focus on the few negatives. What bothers me about Anderson is that he seems to have a problem with right and wrong.

    His ability to understand right from wrong, makes me think he should go find something else to do. Maybe a job on Wall Street would be a better fit.

  2. Absolutely 100% agree. The problem of this form of municipal government is not Tacoma’s alone.

    Here in Puyallup it is about as bad. We have a City Manager’s office that is so in bed with the police department and a crony on the council, that the city is run unethically (almost like a mini -Marshall Law). We had a situation where the Police Department were instructed to run a background check on every car and its owner parked in a lot used by Sound Transit “Sounder” commuters. They did just that. (Don’t ask why).

    If a mayor had done that, he or she should and would have been recalled. Not in Puyallup, they brush it under the rug and give the City Manager acclaim and a fatter contract.

  3. “marshall law?” surely you mean martial law, or are you referring to post WW2 europe?

  4. Overall I prefer a strong mayor system for mid-large cities. In Tacoma, I think the politics and competing interests have come to a point of complexity where the City Manager system of government cannot possibly serve its constituents adequately. There are not enough checks and balances.

    However, I shudder at the thought of a strong mayor in Tacoma when I think of the absolute dearth of qualified public officials. If Tacoma goes down this road, it must also have a full time council that is paid professional level salaries, so that we aren’t left with mostly small business owners, retired people, wealthy people, and those that have time on their hands running for seats. A strong mayor in Tacoma would still need an administrator.

    I do think an intermediate step is a full time council, with support staff that work directly with council members on their initiatives and inquiries without formally going through the manager’s office. But I’m not sure any city manager would take a job in a city where this was the setup.

  5. nwcolorist says:

    Is the city manager system to blame, or is it the people themselves who failed?

  6. SSounder says:

    It takes five votes to fire the Tacoma City Manager. It takes fifty percent plus one of the voters to fire a Mayor. Which is easier?
    Anders, as to cherry-picked information, Council members also have available to them the same unassailable fount of truth that you apparently base your opinions on – the media.

  7. I feel if the powers that are in control of our Local and State Government keeps sweeping things under the same rug,soon that pile under the rug will be higher than Mt Rainer!

  8. harleyrider1 says:

    All the voters need to do is to recall the Mayor and tell the Council to fire the city Manager.

    The Mayor should be recalled by the voters since the Mayor is the political figurehead AND the Mayor’s comments. They were insulting to the citizens.

    Recall the Mayor and you will send a message to the Council members they are next if they do not terminate the city manager.

    Or just keep blogging/whining and consider yourselves powerless voters.

  9. harley, that is how it is done. finally someone who understands how the political system works.

  10. samanthamarten says:

    Yes we do need more people involved in redirecting city government. We need additional societies that will seriously question and propose alternatives to the present day Cook County machine.For those that are willing to challenge the status quo, we need to roll off the couch, participate in civic learning discussions, and donate our time to candidates that are well informed of 21st century business practices.

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