By Emily Heffter, February 27, 2013, Seattle Times
Port of Seattle Commission President Tom Albro wants to give Port commissioners a big raise: from $6,000 a year to $42,000 a year, the same amount paid to state legislators.
He won’t take the money, and he said the issue might even hurt his own re-election chances. But he said most people can’t afford to serve on the Port commission, and that’s bad for everyone.
“We intend our government to be a representative democracy … For this to be true, average citizens must be reasonably able to serve in elected office,” he said. “But that is not the case when it comes to serving on the Port commission. The vast majority of us simply can’t afford to give away half our working hours, no matter how much we might be drawn to public service.”
Albro is treading into politically dicey territory just as he is up for re-election. To show he’s not motivated by the money, Albro said he will waive the salary increase if he is re-elected this year. Four of the five Port commission seats are up for election in November, so Albro said this is the time to increase the salary.
Current commissioners include Albro, who owns two businesses, Bill Bryant, a partner in his own consulting firm, and John Creighton, a lawyer. Commissioner Rob Holland is resigning March 15.
Holland, who joined the Port in 2010, was the subject of a recent Seattle Times storyabout the problems he ran into during his first term, including misusing a Port credit card, personal financial problems, and sometimes-difficult relationships with staff and colleagues.
Holland declined to comment on whether he would support the pay raise. He will have a chance to vote on the commissioners’ raise if Albro sticks to his schedule: he’ll introduce his resolution March 5 for a final vote March 12.
Three commissioners must vote for a pay raise for it to pass.
Commissioner Bill Bryant said he isn’t likely to support the legislation. Plenty of public servants don’t get paid, he said.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires us to get involved,” he said. “I’m spending my time working on issues that generate jobs, not giving myself a raise.”
Bryant pointed out that 29 people applied for an open seat vacated this year by former Commissioner Gael Tarleton, of Ballard, who served for five years and was just elected to the state Legislature.
Commissioner John Creighton said in a statement Wednesday he would support the proposal, calling it “a good government measure that will encourage a Port commission more reflective of our community.”
“The Port commission has long been dominated by rich old white men and individuals whose employers financially benefit from their position on the commission,” he said.
The question of paying Port commissioners more is not new. In 2009, the commission considered making the job a full-time post and increasing staff.