Edmonds councilmembers take issue with mayor’s raise; say better council salaries needed too
By design, the Edmonds City Council has no control over the recommendations made by the Edmonds Citizens’ Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials, an all-volunteer commission that reviews and sets not only councilmembers’ compensation and benefits but that of Edmonds’ other elected officials — the Mayor and Municipal Court Judge. The new salary schedule for 2015 and 2016 goes into effect as soon as the schedule is filed with the City Clerk’s office, which occurred last Thursday, July 10. But that didn’t stop some councilmembers from criticizing the commission’s recommendations at Tuesday night’s council meeting to give the Edmonds mayor a $500 per month pay increase — from $9,623 to $10,123 — plus any cost of living adjustments received by the city’s non-represented city employees during those years.
Some councilmembers were also frustrated that the commission — which compares Edmonds mayoral and council salary data with that of comparable cities with similar governments, along with other data points — decided to keep council compensation the same — at $1,695, which includes a health insurance benefit.
Edmonds City Councilmember Joan Bloom presented a long list of issues she had with the commission’s recommendations, starting with the fact that the commission currently has only four members when under the city ordinance it’s supposed to have a membership of seven. Human Resources Director Carrie Hite responded that the city has had a difficult time filling the positions on the commission, but did mention that there was a fifth commission member who signed off on the report but is currently on medical leave.
Bloom also said she saw no point in commission’s decision to add a $2,000 professional development benefit for the council, aimed at covering time spent attending training opportunities, since councilmembers already have that type of training available to them.
Both Bloom and Councilmember Lora Petso strongly objected to the raise for the mayor, and Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said that neither the mayor nor the council should be receiving raises during the current budget climate, although the council president should receive additional money for extra duties that position requires.
“I was very disappointed by the results of the work,” Bloom said. “For me, this is about realizing how difficult it is to…get people interested in the position [of councilmember]– particularly the young people. Because if you look at most of the people here, they are either retired, semi-retired or have their own independent business so they can flex their schedule. I thin it’s really unrealistic to expect that any full-time person can do this job.”
Added Bloom: “I would really like to see councilmembers valued more and not marginalized or seen as worker bees and do all this work and don’t get paid for it.”
Councilmember Strom Peterson thanked the commission for its work, noting that the members have a difficult job. Commission co-chair Mike Hathaway explained that the commission was limited by several factors in making its recommendations, including what the city’s budget can accommodate in terms of compensation.
Also part of the commision’s recommendation was reaffirming the current Edmonds Municipal Court judge’s salary — which is reimbursed from state court improvement account funds — is set at 95 percent of the salary for a full-time district court judge. The Edmonds judge’s position is a part-time (.55 FTE) position and paid on a pro-rated basis — currently $6,294 monthly.
Citizens who want to learn more about this issue are encouraged to watch the entire taped presentation of this agenda item which includes the commission’s entire report as well as a detailed discussion about the size of the commission and the factors considered in making the compensation adjustments.
The council also:
– Unanimously approved an ordinance amending the 2014 budget, which includes unexpected expenses for IT equipment replacement to fix telephone and email system glitches.
– Voted 4-3 against a motion by Petso to amend the recently-approved Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include only the South portion of the Sunset Walkway, when such a project is developed. Petso originally voted in favor of the TIP but indicated at the July 1 council meeting she was going to request a re-vote, due to her ongoing concerns about safety related to the Sunset. There is no money currently in the city budget to build a pathway on Sunset — which has been the subject of ongoing citizen and council debate in recent months — but being included as part of the Transportation Improvement Program is a necessary step for any future work.
– Voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to sign a Professional Services Agreement with the Site Workshop to complete the design of a spray pad water feature, to be installed east of the new playground equipment at City Park next spring.
– Unanimously approved the amendment of an interlocal agreement with Snohomish County that will allow Edmonds to continue as a partner in the Urban County Consortium — including the ability to apply for funding under HUD block grant programs.
-After a short executive discussion, agreed by a 5-2 vote to allow Mayor Dave Earling to proceed with two candidates — rather than the normally required three — to fill the Director of Community Services/Economic Development job vacated by the resignation of Stephen Clifton. You can read more about those two candidates here.