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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: Looking for a huge raise? Try mayor

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: April 16, 2016, 6:10am

You’re feeling a little underpaid, even though all the comparable studies say you’re already making 60 percent more than others in your same position.

Still, you want to make a pitch to the decision-makers to get yourself some. And by some you mean more.

Lots more.

You kinda feel you don’t have much of a chance, because none of the facts are stacking up in your favor. Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

But then, as though you’re living in the “Twilight Zone,” you get the raise!

And this isn’t some 2 or 3 percent raise. It’s an 11 percent raise! What the …

Oh wait, I did the math wrong. It’s a 117 percent raise!

I’m not kidding.

Welcome to the nightmare of the Vancouver Salary Review Commission.

This commission — appointed by the mayor — just changed the form of Vancouver government.

Now, a reasonable person might reasonably ask, how in the heck can an appointed commission have this much power?

And, of course, the answer is, it shouldn’t.

When political types — appointed or otherwise — do stupid stuff, there should be consequences.

What could happen

We’ll see how much stupid stuff the residents of Vancouver are willing to take. Citizens have the right to put a referendum on the ballot to rescind this stupid stuff. The law says that to place the measure on the ballot, one has to obtain signatures equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the last election. That would be about 2,700 or 2,800 signatures.

Also, the city council should immediately move to amend the charter that gives this much power to an appointed commission. Residents also could put this on the ballot, but it would be a show of good faith if the city council did it.

That charter amendment could take the form of many things, including simply disbanding the salary commission or capping raises.

Testimony

Depending on your perspective, the testimony in front of the commission Friday was poignant, heartfelt, bemusing or nonsensical.

Mayor Tim Leavitt had told me earlier he might show up to testify, but I didn’t think he was serious. It felt a bit unbecoming to have a sitting mayor address this review commission. Leavitt justified it by saying he’s not running again. But nonetheless, having the sitting mayor be forcibly in favor of a huge raise for the mayor was strange.

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Look, I like the guy, but …

Plus, he’s not the most humble guy I’ve ever met. (OK, I’m guilty, too.)

Listen to how he began his pitch:

“There is nobody more knowledgable and credible today than I to discuss the responsibilities and commitments of elected office here in the city of Vancouver.”

Huh?

Nobody? There were a couple of former mayors in the audience who spoke against this outrageous raise to whom you might want to give just a modicum of respect. They have some knowledge on this matter, as well.

And oh, Mr. Mayor. You’ll still be in office when this raise kicks in, right? So you’re getting a piece of this action you pushed for, right?

In the end, the vote was 3-2 to raise the mayor’s salary from $27,600 a year to $60,000 a year.

MarCine Miles, Magan Reed and Thomas Hackett voted in favor of it.

Stan Girt and Barry Hemphill voted against it.

The majority’s reasoning was completely nonsensical. Girt made the point that — if approved — the already-inflated mayor’s salary will go through the roof. I earlier noted the percentages.

The response from the majority? They said they could play the numbers game, too. So they compared the cost of the raise with the total city budget.

Huh?

That’s just-off-the-wall reasoning. It’s scary, really, that folks like this are making huge decisions. If they had given the mayor a 1,000 percent pay increase, it would still be a minuscule amount compared with the overall budget. That simply is not the way you would — or should — look at a pay increase.

When all is said and done, this salary review commission has created a huge mess. Now we’ll see if the rest of Vancouver is willing to clean it up.

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Columbian Editor