Organizers of a petition effort to retract the Vancouver City Council’s recent pay hikes say they’ve gathered nearly 4,000 signatures on their petition, and plan to present it at City Hall on Thursday.
Former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who is spearheading the referendum effort along with former Mayor Bruce Hagensen, said Wednesday that the organizers have reached their goal of 4,000 signatures or gotten very close. The petition needs only about 2,800 signatures to be make the ballot, but organizers wanted to build in a buffer. In order to be valid, signatures need to be from currently registered voters who live within Vancouver city limits. That excludes thousands of voters who have Vancouver mailing addresses, including most residents of Hazel Dell, Felida and Orchards.
“We’re very pleased,” Pollard said. “We have given it our best effort and we hope there won’t be too many errors.”
At 1:15 p.m. Thursday, those who have been most deeply involved in the referendum petition will gather at Vancouver City Hall for a “turn-in ceremony.” They will formally submit the petitions to the city clerk at 1:30 p.m., Pollard said. The deadline to turn in the petition is Friday, a month after the city Salary Review Commission dramatically hiked the mayor and city council’s salaries.
The commission 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.
In Vancouver, the job of running the day-to-day operations of the city is in the hands of a professional city manager. The mayor and city council hire the city manager, set policy, and represent the city at various civic and ceremonial functions.
Under the city charter, the raises are not subject to review by the city council.
Within a few days of the pay raises, the opposition mobilized.
“I’m amazed. With only about three weeks … the volunteers have done an outstanding job. The reaction has been overwhelming,” Pollard said.
Opinions among the current city council are mixed. Five councilors signed the petition: Jack Burkman, Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Alishia Topper, Bart Hansen and Bill Turlay. Mayor Tim Leavitt favors the pay increase, citing the amount of time his city duties take away from his day job as an engineer. Councilor Ty Stober said he was satisfied with the process the commission followed.
Assuming the city clerk validates an adequate number of signatures, it’s expected the salary increases would appear on the November general election ballot, unless the city council immediately votes to repeal the ordinance that set the raises. If the raises are rejected, the salary commission would be required to meet again before the end of the year to reconsider the elected officials’ pay.