Edmonds City Council votes to disband Citizens Compensation Commission

Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas explains why she supports elimination of the Citizens Commission on the Compensation of Elected Officials. (Photos by Larry Vogel)

Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas explains during Tuesday’s council meeting why she supports elimination of the citizens commission that set salaries of Edmonds elected officials. (Photos by Larry Vogel)

By a 4-3 margin, the Edmonds City Council voted Tuesday night to disband the Citizens Commission on the Compensation of Elected Officials.

The mission of the all-volunteer commission has been to review and set compensation and benefits of City of Edmonds elected officials, which includes the Mayor, City Councilmembers and the Municipal Court Judge. (By law, councilmembers can’t set their own salaries, although they can set the salaries of the mayor and judge.) But confusion surrounded the commission’s most recent recommendations to raise the mayor’s salary but not the council’s, and included accusations that the group didn’t have enough members to constitute a quorum. As a result, Council President Diane Buckshnis asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday to prepare a list of options for the council to consider regarding the commission’s future, including eliminating it altogether.

In the end, after several rounds of debate, the council did just that — despite concerns raised by Councilmembers Strom Peterson, Thomas Mesaros and Kristina Johnson that having an independent citizen commission, in Peterson’s words, “takes the politics out” of the compensation process.

However, Councilmember Joan Bloom — who voted with the majority to disband the commission — said that the action will allow the council to review other options for establishing councilmembers’ salaries. Also voting to eliminate the commission were Buckshnis and Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Lora Petso.

The next step is for the City Attorney to draft an ordinance to repeal chapter 10.80 of the Edmonds City Code, which created the commission in the first place.

Edmonds Planning Manager Rob Chave reviews the Westgate development plan prior to the public hearing.

Edmonds Planning Manager Rob Chave reviews the Westgate development plan prior to the public hearing.

The council also heard from several citizens who came to testify regarding a proposed development plan for the Westgate neighborhood, approved by the Edmonds Planning Board, which includes options for more open space, improved walkability and in some areas taller (three- or four-story) buildings.

Most of those testifying were members of the Citizens Economic Development Commission (CEDC), including CEDC Chair Bruce Witenberg, who noted that the commission approved by a vote of 11-1 (one abstention) a white paper that “endorsed and supported the Planning Board’s recommendations for the redevelopment of Westgate.”

“It is my personal opinion that Edmonds citizens living outside of the Bowl deserve to have similar amenities to those living in the Bowl,” Witenberg said. “These include a lifestyle center, in a walkable community, with easy access to restaurants, services, housing, transportation and open spaces. Westgate is a major gateway to our community. We deserve to improve upon how this gateway currently portrays Edmonds.

Witenberg also noted that former Edmonds Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton was unable to attend Tuesday’s council meeting, but “gave me permissionTo voice his support for the reasons set forth in the CEDC white paper.”

Witenberg’s 25-year-old son Alex also offered testimony, from the perspective of young professionals who are choosing to make decisions about where to live “based on access to public transportation and walkability. Can they get from home to school, work or social events without having to drive? Can they get by without a car at all? Are there grocery stores and dining options nearby?” he asked.

“Edmonds now has the opportunity to redevelop Westgate and entice a portion of these young people to settle down, develop roots in this community and stay for the long term,” Alex Witenberg said.

Councilmember Petso said that while she appreciated the opinions of those who are members of the CEDC, she hopes that other citizens will weigh in on the Westgate proposal before the council decides whether to approve it.

Edmonds Development Director Shane Hope said during a break that while there won’t be another formal hearing on Westgate, the city council will consider it as part of the city’s broader comprehensive plan during its Aug. 19 council meeting. In addition, citizens will have an opportunity to offer comment on the plan during the public comment portion of the Aug. 26 council meeting, Hope said.

In other action, the council also heard a report from Councilmember Mesaros on work completed so far on a proposed draft evaluation process for Edmonds’ current city attorney, The Lighthouse Law Group.

– Larry Vogel contributed to this report

 

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18 Comments

  1. ..regarding the Mayor’s salary increase., it hardly takes the poltics out of it when the person getting the increase is the one who is choosing and appointing members of that commission….

    ..Regarding POLITICS today, EVERY citizen of Edmonds., be sure to VOTE today, …..your voice will be heard.Let’s surprise all, and turn out by the thousands and thousands!

    GOOD government only happens when the citizens make their expectations for a transparent., ethical, law abiding and responsive government clear……WE are electing OUR government since citizens are at the top of OUR government….

  2. A major problem with board/committee selection among private, govt. and nonprofit organizations is that the top executive usually hand-picks those to whom she/he is supposedly accountable. I have a suggestion, which I will outline separately.

  3. To help ensure an arm’s length review, how about lining up three or four boards of directors of respected nonprofit organizations to make salary recommendations? For example, this year it might be the board of the YMCA or League of Women Voters, or other organization with no connections to city government. Give the board some guidelines for its mission and pay it a modest stipend for the work. Next time it could rotate to another organization (picked randomly or by lottery.) No org. would do it twice in a row. If the board that is drawn to do the job had a member with ties to the city, that member would recuse her/himself from discussion or voting. This might help.

  4. THANK YOU Council President Buchshnis and Councilors Bloom, Petso and FM Monillas. You are my “heroes”…

    Eve…

  5. Thank you for your great suggestion! It only “makes sense”…! My hope is that Council President Buchshnis and the Council give your advice … strong, positive consideration …on behalf of the citizens of Edmonds.

    Eve…

    Eve…

  6. Great idea Mr. Sanderlin!…..

    and Yes! THANK YOU to our great City Council President Diane Buckshnis, Councilors FM Monillas, Lora Petso and Joan Bloom …….My “heroes” too!…..

  7. There was a variety of reasons for four councilmembers voting for the motion to disband the compensation committee. But I have to wonder if there would have been as many as four votes for this drastic action if the commission had not decided to give the mayor a pay increase.

  8. We will never know all that was going on in each of their minds. I believe council should be paid much more than the current $1000/mo. For a 30 hr work week that’s about $8/hr. By comparison the mayor’s rate is about $50/hr.

    I would set the pay for council at $15/hr. effective as soon as it were legal. Then increase the rate by $5/hr each year until it reaches about $35 or $40. The duties for council president deserve more, so rating it as a 40 hr job would create a 30% premium.

    We expect quality work from all our elected folks so we should be willing to pay them a quality salary.

  9. If i am not mistaken the council votes to appoint the commission members so they only have them selves to blame if they dont like the results. Ron I agree with you that the vote was more anti mayor than anything else. Darrol how will we know how much time each council member actually spends on council business as there are no time clocks or reporting method of time spent .

  10. We don’t have a punch clock for the mayor or directors either. The primary point is they work a lot of hours doing their work and should be compensated more. The use of hours is just a way to demonstrate value of time. Do the math another way and if we assume they should be paid $35/hr then for what we pay them today they would only be required to work 1 hr/day. My numbers are to illustrate how little we pay them for their work. I am just trying to use some numbers to support my opinions.

  11. The amount of compensation for virtually any position anywhere is determined by surveying what’s being paid elsewhere. The compensation committee’s analysis of compensation being paid to councilmembers in comparable cities revealed that Edmonds councilmembers were adequately paid.

  12. Anybody that thinks $8.00 an hour is fine must be thinking the City of Edmonds is a Third World city. If we wish to attract quality people to our City Council we need to pay them a RESPECTABLE wage for their hard work. Anyone who has to read and understand volumes of information to make the BEST decisions for our city should be compensated respectively. Only then can we attract people who can do the job well. ………….I really didn’t see any cities on the “comparable cities” list that I thought compared to Edmonds at all……and regardless, $8.00 an hour is about what teenage neighborhood babysitters that are just starting out get paid for their services I believe….maybe a little more….

    Again, we are a country of laws that are meant to be followed…….and that’s what makes us a great country. We follow our laws and JUSTICE prevails. THAT is always what we need to aspire to.

    • Your $8.00 an hour has no factual basis.

  13. Our City Council does an EXCEPTIONAL job right now and should be compensated respectively!…..I was going by Mr. Haugs figures, and quite frankly, I believe even $15.00 an hour is ridiculous when the Mayor is paid around $50.00 an hour. This is a Mayor/Council town and to pay our City Council hard workers that much LESS is terrible. These are the people that WE elected to do a good job and we should pay them a respectable wage for doing the job well. Period!

  14. Everyone on the council knew what the compensation for the position was when they ran for office. Should the compensation be better? I’d say so. Should it be reviewed? Most definitely. But just like the mayor- this is what they signed up for and if the pay is adjusted it should go into effect after they get re-elected/ if they get re-elected. I’m sure it wasn’t the pay that brought these civic leaders to the job of city council.

  15. The issue at hand isn’t Monday Morning quarterbacking the Commission’s work. It is that the Commission acted improperly. It violated the open public meetings act, at a minimum. Ms Wellington , who if you simply look at her resume, is well qualified to serve on the Commission was removed because she served the City on the EDC which everyone knew and which was not used as a disqualification for her appointment ( this is still a small town so it wasn’t a secret).

    The only option for the Council was not to extend the time for filing. Had they done that, the existing Compensation would have cycled through until the next Commission did its work.

    Now, it appears the Council is upset with the recommendations and is meddling in the Compensation which is precisely what having a commission was established to prevent in the first place.

    Had the Council been happy with the Commission’s recommendations, repealing the ordinance would likely not have happened. An independent investigation is in order, rather than ignoring the procedural issues or focusing on second guessing the commission.

  16. Councilperson Petso, I forgot to mention, was spot on in her comments and recognized the problems for what they are, suggested a clean and tidy way forward, and is absolutely to be commended for her attempt to deal with the situation effectively.

  17. There are penalties for violating the Open Public Meeting Act including Individual Liability, City, County or District Liability and actions in violation of the act are void and null.

    New Requirement as of July 1, 2014
    All members of governing bodies much complete Open Public Meeting Act TRAINING.

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