Human Resources, Monday, 5 pm
I wrote about this last week, so I hope you'll excuse me for being brief. Council salaries have to be set two years in advance so no member of the body is setting their own salary: They'll all face re-election once before the new salary takes effect. In 2014 council voted to raise the salary 2% in 2016, from $5805 to $5921.
No inflation adjustment was necessary for 2017, so two weeks ago the HR committee voted to hold salaries flat for another year. At council, however, I supported an amendment to switch to a 5% increase in an effort to begin to address the fact that low salaries combined with our evening work schedule may prevent many qualified candidates from seeking this office. That amendment failed, but the item was referred back to committee for further discussion.
Raising salaries for elected officials is never popular (last year it resulted in one of the screamiest voicemails I've ever received), but the reality is our failure to adjust our position's pay against inflation for long periods of time has allowed it to become so low that it's a barrier to entry for qualified candidates who may need to take evenings off of work or find childcare to be able to participate. A 5% increase (from $5921 to $6217) won't solve that problem, but it is a step in the right direction.
Municipal Services, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
The effort to reconstruct a portion of County Highway JJ and resolve some safety issues along the north side of North High School will take a step forward this week when the Municipal Services Committee holds a public hearing to discuss the proposed design.
I haven't seen the actual plan yet, but it's my understanding that it contains:
- A new raised median with a fence on JJ between Ballard and Lightning, eliminating left turns on and off of the street throughout that area and preventing students from running across the street instead of using the crosswalk.
- A roundabout at the corner of JJ and Lightning that will allow vehicles that had to turn right onto JJ to turn around.
No official action will be taken at this meeting: The committee will be asked to approve a final design at a later date.
Budget adoption, Wednesday, 6 pm
Finally, the council will meet in special session on Wednesday to wrap up deliberations on the city's 2016 budget, make any final amendments and approve the final document. This event concludes more than a month of review, special meetings and public hearings.
I've developed something of a reputation for being heavily involved in the budget process, pre-submitting 74 questions for our all-day budget meeting and proposing several amendments during final adoption each of the last two years. This year, however, I find I have no changes to propose.
This decision didn't come from a lack of effort or concern. Here are some of the items that remain on my radar:
- The primary headline from this budget season has been the decision on how to proceed with the Erb Pool project, as that facility is scheduled to close following its 2016 season. Two weeks ago the Finance Committee amended the plan to call for a total of $9.25 million to be spent replacing the 50 meter pool (and the proposed "splash pad" replacement) with a 25-meter pool and other amenities to be determined later. Two of my colleagues have proposed amendments to expand the project by either $750,000 or $1.25 million in an effort to keep a 50-meter pool at the facility. I support these amendments: If we're going to build a new pool, I'd like to see us preserve some of the unique features that make Erb a notable community asset.
- There has been some discussion of the possibility of adding a full-time recreation programmer position to the Parks & Recreation department to help address rapidly increasing demand for our programs and services. I support adding this position, partially funded by the increase in Recreation revenues, and look forward to discussion on two amendments calling for it.
- Finally, I remain concerned by some of the financial details in the city's relationship with Reid Golf Course. The city continues to pay $8500 per year in rent to the golf course for winter programs despite the fact that the course owes about $160,000 to the general fund on a 24-year, interest free loan. I proposed an amendment last year to address this issue but it did not receive any support. I did not propose the amendment this year, but would still like to see the situation improved.
Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.