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Home » Archives » January 2007 » Questions Raised By Corbin's Letter

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01/17/2007: "Questions Raised By Corbin's Letter"


Walter Corbin's 1-12.07 letter expressed "shock" over the $32k salaries the new County Council members are receiving. For me, coming from the Friday Harbor Town Council where I was paid $85/meeting to a maximum of 4 meetings/month, I also wondered what was a fair County salary. The Town pay is meant to compensate for time missed at work. The noon meeting is supposed to be 1.50 hours = $56.67/hour. Two of the meetings are at noon and two at 5:30, presumably after work. There are 2-4/year extra, unpaid meetings and, depending on a members' commitment, numerous committee meetings. Finally, there is the time it takes to read material and otherwise prepare for meetings. No one complains that Town Council members are overpaid.

I'm still learning the ropes at County but we currently meet (regular and staff) a minimum of 1.5 days (call it 12 hours with travel time)/week for 3-4 weeks/month. All meetings are during the work day because of the ferry schedule. This doesn't include numerous committee meetings, meetings with constituents, travel to off-island events/meetings and preparing for the regular meetings. If we take the Town's $56.67/hour X 12 hours (1.5 days) = $680.94/week. The new County Council members gets $683.33/week plus benefits. If we count just 3 weeks of work then its $911.11/week. Since Town meetings often run longer than 1.5 hours the relationship could be different but it would still be close.

But at this level there were few candidates for the County positions 3 of the 4 seats were uncontested. And out of the four newly elected Council members I am the only one who is not retired, although, I'm pretty close to it. Who do we want serving? Retired or working people?

Corbin sites Whatcom County's $18k salary for a bigger population as evidence that our $32k is too much. Did he notice that they only meet twice/month and all of their meetings are at 7 pm, after the workday? And their website lists just 3 standing committees.

There is a big question of how much we want our Council members to be visiting state legislators in Olympia and participating on state committees. This is a huge time commitment but is considered valuable to the county. Only one of us, a still full-time paid Councilmember, is currently doing this regularly.

So, for me, the jury is still out. We don't yet know what our workload will be after the Charter is fully implemented. We're still working out our committee assignments and we need to decide how much out-of-county travel is expected or encouraged. Finally, who do we want to attract for these positions and what are we willing to cut out or not do, to achieve the revenue neutrality some desire?

Since I have to close my business when doing Council work, I have a vested interest to make the Council job as minimal as possible. However, as a responsible elected citizen I have a commitment to make sure the position is right for our County.

Howard Howie Rosenfeld
County Council, District 3



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