A referendum petition to retract the hefty pay raises awarded to Vancouver’s mayor and city council has enough signatures to qualify for a ballot measure, Clark County elections officials said Tuesday.
Of the 3,783 signatures submitted, 3,049 were valid, which provided a buffer of 273 signatures, Elections Director Cathie Garber said. The petition needed 2,776 signatures to be placed on November’s ballot.
The two most common reasons elections workers challenged the 734 invalid signatures, Garber said, were that the signers weren’t registered voters, or they didn’t live within Vancouver city limits, even though they may have had a Vancouver mailing address. The signature validity rate was 81 percent.
Garber delivered the petitions to the Vancouver City Clerk on Tuesday afternoon. Once the City Clerk certifies the petition, the city council could immediately vote to repeal the ordinance that set the council’s higher pay for 2017-18. If councilors don’t repeal it, they must refer the ordinance to voters in November’s election. In either case, if the salaries were retracted, the city’s five-member Salary Review Commission would have to reconvene to reset the salaries before the end of the year.
On April 20, the city’s independent Salary Review Commission increased the mayor’s pay for 2017-18 by 117 percent, from $27,600 to $60,000 per 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 city council and mayoral jobs are considered part-time. City Manager Eric Holmes is the city’s top administrator.
Organizers of the referendum effort were ecstatic to learn of the petition’s sufficiency Tuesday.
“That’s really outstanding,” said former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who had been told by others to expect a 30 to 40 percent error rate in signature validity.
“I think the council needs to think long and hard before they put this thing on the ballot,” Pollard said. “I don’t want to run a campaign.”
He emphasized that the referendum supporters never said the council wasn’t deserving of a raise. However, the Salary Review Commission should keep the raise more in line with what city employees receive, he said.
“They ought to listen to what the community said,” Pollard said. “If they go astray again, I and a lot of other people are prepared to go for another referendum.”