Vancouver salary commission bickers and stalls

Three months might seem like plenty of time to hash out what Vancouver’s mayor and city council should be paid for 2017-18. But if you’re following the progress of the city salary review commission over its last five meetings, you’ll wonder if the commission will reach a decision by its May 1 deadline. The commission makes the final salary decision, and it can’t be overridden.

The commission’s plan was to vote on a motion at Wednesday’s meeting following a public hearing. They indeed voted – rejecting one motion 3-2 – and then the bickering began. Then paralysis set in.

Commissioner Thomas Hackett said he worried that the commission was giving too much weight to the mayor and council’s previous salaries. Currently, the council and mayor’s pay range is $21,600 to $27,600 per year.

Chairman Barry Hemphill asked if he’d like to make a motion. Not at present, Hackett said.

Hemphill, who served 15 years in public office in Lake Barrington, Ill., got impatient.

“We need to move forward, or we’re going to sit here and not do anything, which is not what we’re charged to do,” Hemphill said. “We’ve talked to each other ‘til we’re blue in the face. We either do something or we fail in our duty. Do you want to have another meeting? Or two or three meetings?”

Hackett said, “I think I’m sensing a lot of hostility … in terms of us having thoughtful discussion today… and it’s hindering my ability to want to participate. … I’m feeling hostility from the chair.”

“Hostility?” Hemphill said. “You haven’t served in public office. I have. You don’t understand how meetings are run. I’m the only one sitting here –”

Commissioner MarCine Miles cut him off and made a motion that commissioners treat each other with courtesy and respect.

Sitting in the back of the room, former Vancouver mayors Royce Pollard and Bruce Hagensen and former Councilor Larry Smith shook their heads.

Commissioner Magan Reed asked Hackett if he was still thinking about an $80,000 pay range for the mayor, as he’d mentioned at the March 2 meeting.

But no, Hackett seemed to be starting from scratch. Now he didn’t know whether the current pay rate was too low – or even too high. Maybe everyone should be working on a part-time basis and earn less money, he said, adding that he wasn’t ready to make a motion.

Miles said she wanted the pay to be “fair and just” and ensure there was diversity on the city council. She was thinking along the lines of paying the mayor $60,000 to $75,000 a year, $45,000 to the mayor pro tem and $35,000 to the council.

Despite laying out her argument and citing concrete figures, Miles wasn’t ready to make a motion, either.

The next meeting is at 10 a.m. April 15 at Vancouver City Hall.

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