In March 1926, voters narrowly rejected a city manager for municipal government and at the same time approved a slate of freeholders to draw up a new city charter. The freeholders represented business interests in the city. The chairman was from Puget Sound Power and Light. The committee came up with a system by which a "business manager" would run city departments (except police). The departments of water and lighting would be combined, voters would approve all bond issues, utility rates would be fixed in Olympia, and the council would consist of members elected, two to a district.
The Seattle Times called the proposal "a splendid document." City Light Superintendent James D. "J.D." Ross (1872-1939) saw the continuing threat of private utility ownership and called upon the newly organized Friends of City Light to oppose the plan. The Municipal League, labor, and Mayor Bertha Landes (1868-1943) also advocated rejection.
The measure was "roundly rejected" (Berner, 93), with 30,900 voters against and 20,291 for.