Edmonds City Council says no to raise for mayor, yes to levy committee

Despite a recommendation from a citizens’ commission, Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson won’t be getting a raise anytime soon. The Edmonds City Council voted 4-1 to direct staff to create an ordinance — and bring it back for council approval — that would repeal a measure passed last year to increase mayor’s salary from $113,210 to $125,000 annually.

The mayor was originally scheduled to get the raise in July 2009, but the Council voted last year to delay it until January 2011, due to “significant and unanticipated economic impacts” on the city’s budget. Last night, the Citizens’ Commission on the Compensation of Elected Officials — citing research that shows the mayor’s pay is “significantly below” comparable jurisdictions — recommended that the Council not only reinstate that delayed $12,790, but do it six months earlier than planned — on July 1.

That idea did not garner council support, however. In speaking against the proposal, Councilmember D.J. Wilson said that in this economic climate, asking mayor to forgo a pay raise is a “prudent gesture.” Strom Peterson was the only councilmember to support the raise, citing the need for the city to be able to attract quality people.

The seven-member council operated with just five members Tuesday night, as Council President Steve Bernheim was absent and a retirement reception was held for Councilmember Dave Orvis, who is leaving the council to spend more time with his family.

The council also continued its discussion of a proposal, made by the council finance committee last Tuesday, to form a citizens’ committee to study the feasibility and timing of a future levy, which could be on the ballot as early as November. Councilmembers Wilson and Peterson both opposed the idea, stating that they were unclear what the committee would be tasked with doing and noting that the citizens elected the council to make decisions — including whether to run a levy.

“None of the things that have been identified as rationales for this committee address our operational shortfall,” Wilson said.

Councilmembers Michael Plunkett and Diane Buckshnis — both finance committee members — were joined by Adrienne Fraley-Monillas to vote in favor of supporting formation of a seven-member levy committee comprised of citizens.

“I have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this city to ensure it’s (the levy is) the right thing to do,” Fraley-Monillas said.

A request for applications will be posted on the city’s website shortly and councilmembers will decide who to appoint.

In other action, the Council approved a letter to the Snohomish County Council requesting that the Edmonds Center for the Arts receive a portion of the county’s unallocated lodging tax “in order to help meet its capital obligations and ensure its long-term fiscal health.” Wilson also encouraged citizens to write their own letters to County Council members, noting that the City of Edmonds will be “on the hook” for any additional funding the Center for the Arts needs.

  1. That was, on balance, the most civil Council meeting of this group. Frank disagreement without hyperbole or slander, and even acknowledgement of others’ sincerity.

    For support of the ECA, citizens should lobby our County representative (as outlined in the last paragraph of the article). Mike Cooper can be reached at:


  2. I find it kind of wierd that Orvis decides to stay on when he is in all kinds of trouble with the law then when he gets his name cleared he decides to quit, and people complain when the mayor asks him to step down, whats he suppost to say I don’t know what you did but thats ok, well guess what folks he must have done something cause he had a trial, I think he should stay and finish his job,

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