With city council members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant (but not fellow lefty council member Mike O'Brien) dissenting today, the city council approved a potential pay increase of a little over $100,000 for Seattle City Light director Jorge Carrasco, who currently earns slightly over $250,000 a year.
The legislation increases Carrasco's "pay band"—the minimum-to-maximum range he can be paid under city law—to a maximum of around $174 an hour, or around $363,000 a year.
"The median salary for a public utility director in the United States," council president Tim Burgess noted, "is $362,000," giving Carrasco a strong incentive to leave City Light for a higher-paying job elsewhere. Council member Sally Clark added, "I know I should probably just sit down and shut up, [but] what [the head of City Light is] compensated also means something when we're trying to attract a CEO."
City council member Kshama Sawant countered that Carrasco's 2013 bonus of around $40,000 is more than the average total salary in Seattle. And Carlos Hernadnez, a backer of the group that supported backed a $15 minimum wage initiative, pointed out during public testimony that Carrasco's total pay doesn't include so-called "total compensation" like the $15 Seattle minimum wage adopted earlier this year, which won't rise to a full $15-per-hour wage for all businesses until 2021, and won't increase to an inflation-adjusted $18.13 an hour until 2024.
"Will you vote for him to get training wages or a tip penalty like a lot of Seattle workers who are earning minimum wage?" Hernandez asked.
Council member Nick Licata noted that two surveys of City Light employees in 2004 and 2007 concluded that most workers were unsatisfied with management at the agency. "I haven’t seen any documentation" that morale has improved, Licata said, "and yet we’re proceeding to give a raise that perhaps in the corporate world would be average but not in the public sector."
As the Seattle Times reported this morning, City Light hired a consultant this year to polish its reputation on Google, eliminating search results that revealed negative things about the agency, including bad employee reviews of management. But at today's (unrelated) press conference announcing a deal between the city, taxi companies, ridesharing services like Uber, and for-hire vehicle companies, Murray said that if City Light contract was intended to "scrub the Internet" of negative information about Carrasco, "I've asked the city not to proceed with this contract."