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With 10 days left, 2,000 names on petition

Drive to retract city council, mayor's raises is ‘doing very well’

By , Columbian City Government Reporter
Published:

With 10 days until the deadline, organizers of a petition effort to retract the Vancouver city council’s recent pay hikes are more than halfway toward their goal of 4,000 signatures.

“We’re doing very well,” former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard said Tuesday.

At least 700 people signed the petition at last weekend’s Vancouver Farmers Market, and at a meeting Monday night, signature gatherers turned in roughly another 400 signatures, he said.

To be eligible for a ballot measure, the petition needs about 2,800 signatures, or 10 percent of the number who voted in the last city election. The catch is, they need to be valid signatures — those of registered voters who live within city limits. Because of the potential for error, Pollard has built a large buffer into his signature goal. The deadline to submit the petition to the city clerk is May 20.

Once the county auditor has certified the petition, the city council could immediately vote to repeal the ordinance setting the council’s pay for the next two years. Or the council could refer the ordinance to voters to consider repealing in November’s election. In either case, if the salaries were retracted, the city Salary Review Commission would have to reconvene to reset the salaries before the end of the year.

On April 20, the salary commission, a five-member volunteer board with no oversight, increased the mayor’s pay for 2017-18 by 117 percent, from $27,600 to $60,000 a year. City councilors’ pay is rising by 50 percent, from $21,600 to $32,496 a year. The mayor pro tem, a councilor who fills in when the mayor is unavailable, will see a pay boost from $24,000 to $37,500 a year, a 56 percent increase.

All seven city councilors have signed the petition except for Ty Stober and Mayor Tim Leavitt. Some councilors have said voters should change the city charter to provide checks and balances on the salary commission, which currently has total authority over salaries.

Leavitt, a professional engineer who has been mayor since 2009, says being mayor of the fourth-largest city in Washington has evolved into a seven-day-a-week job and warrants a much higher salary than he’s making now.

Two years ago, the salary commission bumped up the mayor’s pay for 2015-16 by $100 a month and the other councilors’ by $19 per month. The city council, which hadn’t had a raise since 2009, tried to reject that pay increase because city employees’ salaries hadn’t risen much in the last few years. However, the salary commission hiked their pay, anyway.

Petitions will be available to sign from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Vancouver Farmers Market. If someone interested in signing the petition is homebound, arrangements can be made to bring a petition to him or her, Pollard said.

Referendum supporters will gather again at 7 p.m. Monday at the IAFF Local 425 union hall, 2807 N.W. Fruit Valley Road. People with petitions are asked to bring in the signatures they’ve collected so far or call the organizers if they can’t attend.

For more information about the referendum effort, call Royce Pollard at 360-693-7526, Pat Jollota at 360-695-3262 or Bruce Hagensen at 360-694-1841.

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Columbian City Government Reporter

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