All Politics is Local

Another tab for taxpayers?

We all know people don’t seek elected office for the money.

They do it for their egos.

But most elected officials get some compensation. In the case of the Vancouver City Council, members are paid and eligible to receive health insurance. The five councilors currently earn $1,781 a month, while Mayor Pro Tem Larry Smith earns $2,000 a month and Mayor Tim Leavitt earns $2,200 a month. (Those salaries, with the exception of the mayor pro tem’s, will increase in January.)

Now, Leavitt has suggested the city pick up the tab for annual dues for a civic or service organization. Under his proposal, the city would pay up to $500 per year per council member. If the policy is adopted at the council meeting Monday, $3,500 will be included in the 2015 budget for dues.

According to a staff report from City Manager Eric Holmes, members of the council “often hold memberships in local civic and other services organizations as part of their regular community engagement activities as elected officials. Regular participation in these groups help council members maintain relationships within the community and aids in outreach to organizations that may partner with the city on mutual projects or initiatives.”

Under the proposed policy, the city would only cover dues. Extra costs, such as meals and mileage, would not be reimbursed. And membership in fraternal or social organizations would not be eligible for reimbursement.

Under the proposed policy: “The Mayor or City Manager will consider a number of factors, including the following criteria, when approving membership in community and civic organizations: the nature and purpose of the club or organization; potential benefit to the city, including the enhancement of council members’ opportunity for leadership; the cost to the city; and the extent to which the city is already represented in the club or organization.”

Leavitt, who suggested the policy at the council’s July 7 meeting, hasn’t paid his 2014 dues to the Vancouver Rotary Club. According to his billing statement, he owes $240 for annual dues and $320 for “meeting assessment.” (I asked Leavitt and Gordon Oliver, the Columbian’s business editor and Rotary member, what “meeting assessment” meant and got two different answers. Maybe a helpful Rotarian can explain in the comments.)

Rotary members meet weekly for lunch at the Red Lion at the Quay and are constantly being hit up for more cash, whether it’s throwing $1 on the table for getting named in the newspaper or making a $100 donation to the foundation, which awards community grants and scholarships.

Leavitt, a civil engineer at PBS Engineering + Environmental, said he thinks the city should pay his Rotary dues. He’s seen his primary salary decrease as his public obligations (meetings, ribbon-cuttings and other community events) cause him to miss work. PBS used to pay his Rotary dues, but stopped because having Leavitt as a member of the Rotary wasn’t a benefit for PBS. People saw Leavitt in his role as mayor, not as an engineer. Leavitt, who now gets paid on an hourly basis by PBS, said if the city won’t pick up his Rotary dues in 2015, he’ll cancel his membership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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