Candidates file for charter commission

The official filing period for the charter commission positions ended Thursday with 15 candidates filing for 14 positions.

Change of government special election is scheduled for Feb. 3

The official filing period for the charter commission positions ended Thursday with 15 candidates filing for 14 positions.

One position, No. 15, received no candidate filing and two filed for No. 9, Mike Cesarano and Ray Bunk.

According to Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy, the position without a filing will be “stricken from the ballot and either the City Council or the commission” will appoint the No. 15 commissioner if the charter-code form of government is approved by voters during the Feb. 3 special election.

The special election will answer the question if Bonney Lake should change from a code form of government to a charter-code.

In a code city, the council passes codes or laws that follow the guidelines in the county charter, the state and federal constitutions.

A charter-code form involves a group of 15 freeholders or commissioners who write a charter for the city. The charter sets the type of government in the city.

At the Dec. 2 City Council workshop, the members appointed “for” and “against” committee members.

Councilman Dan Decker and Lynda Dabson were appointed to the committee for the charter-code form. Decker was selected as the spokesman.

Decker collected the signatures for the charter-code petition and presented it to the city March 17.

Heather Stinson, a planning manager for the city, and Fred Jacobsen, who is a member of the Park Board, were appointed to the committee against the change. Stinson was selected as the spokesperson.

If the charter-code form is approved by voters on Feb. 3, the commissioners have six months to write a charter for the city.

The current council members and mayor would continue in officer while the charter is being written.

According to City Administrator Don Morrison, once the charter is completed, it is presented to the council and the members have five days to call for an election.

If the charter is approved by voters, the current City Council and mayor would be out of office. Candidates will run for the new offices outlined in the charter at the same election the charter is approved.

Dabson, who is running for the No. 3 commissioner, said she supports keeping the mayor-council form of government that is in place now.

“The charter is the voice of the people,” Dabson said. “We would be putting together a list of guidelines the new government has to follow. This way we can keep our government current. The charter allows people input.”

Dabson believes the charter-code form allows for “more checks and balances. Democratic government does not go on automatically. It goes on because people fight for it.”

Dabson feels the city “is operating on an agenda the mayor (Neil Johnson) and city administrator put together. (But) this is not a vendetta. I would welcome them all to stay if they would fly right.”

Johnson said he does not support the change and “I will do what I can to make sure this does not pass. The checks and balances are already in place. Why try to reinvent the wheel?”

The mayor said he has been in office three years “and I’ve followed through on everything I promised. To me this is a backdoor move to get rid of the current government and to give Mr. Decker another shot at mayor or the perceived power he wants.”

Decker lost a bid for the mayor’s office in the September 2005 primary election.

Decker said he started the petition for a change to the charter-code form “long before I ran for mayor. Mayor Johnson is looking for a lame excuse to try to figure a way to stop this from happening because it will give home-rule power to the people.”

When asked what home rule meant, Decker said he had “no comment.”

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said, “I haven’t been able to identify any benefits and it is going to cost a whole lot of money if you’re going to do it right. Any citizen can bring an issue forward now.”

Swatman said he believes the underlying issue is “some people have been in the city a long time and see the city changing and feel like they have no control. If they want control, all you have to do is participate. I think people don’t understand growth, but it is the city planning for the future. They think we can say stop, but you can’t.”

City officials have estimated the cost of changing to a charter-code form of government, including elections, campaigns and writing the charter, as ranging from $170,000 to $416,000.

Dabson disputes the city’s estimate.

“They can put a range, but it is very misleading,” Dabson said. “Let’s say it did cost $416,000. The damage being done to the city (now) is 10 times that.”

The complete list of commissioner candidates listed by position are No. 1 Heather M. Stinson, No. 2 Donn M. Lewis, No. 3 Lynda Dabson, No. 4 Teather Munson, No. 5 Bruce Honabach, No. 6 Sandra K. Sapp, No. 7 Terry O. Hickok, No. 8 Glen M. Ripper, No. 9 Mike J. Cesarano and Raymond R. Bunk, III, No. 10 Gary F. Plattner, No. 11 Debora Bran, No. 12 Martin Hines, No. 13 Marcia Marie Hickok-Ritchie and No. 14 Thomas L. Michelson.

Reach Dennis Box at dbox@courierherald.com or 360-802-8209.

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