Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Future Salaries

Caffeinated news and gossip featuring pay, zoning, consensus, and homemade biscotti.

By Morning Fizz December 10, 2013

Morning Fizz

1. Later this week, a council committee will likely pass legislation that will cut council members' future salaries from a projected $126,178 (starting in 2014) to $119,976.

The pay cut comes courtesy of district elections, which will require all current city council members to run for reelection in 2015. (The seven council members elected by district that year will serve four-year terms, until 2019, and the two council members elected at large will serve two-year terms, until 2017; eventually, everyone will serve a four-year term, with the two at-large members overlapping by two years with the districted members.)

The district initiative mandates the pay change because current law adjusts council member salaries by inflation over four years; since current council members don't have guaranteed seats for four years, the idea is to press a reset button by freezing council salaries at the rate of incoming council members' salaries in 2012 and adjust them by the actual past rate of inflation, instead of boosting them by projected future inflation, which results in higher salary boosts.

It's a complicated formula, but the net effect is simple: The city will save $28,400 a year in 2014 and 2015, and will decrease council members' pay hikes (a frequent point of contention among conservative newspaper editorial boards) going forward. 

2. Also later this week, the council's energy and environment committee will take up a proposal to require developers downtown to pay the same amount as developers in adjacent South Lake Union if they want to build more residential density than current city law allows. (As always, we're puzzled why building more density comes at a cost—isn't it what the city wants developers to do?—but that's another discussion.—Eds.)

A proposal to require developers downtown to pay the same amount as developers in adjacent South Lake Union.

The program, known as incentive zoning, allows developers to build taller, denser buildings if they either build affordable housing on-site or pay into a city affordable housing fund, which is known as a "fee in lieu" (of actually building affordable housing). 

Earlier this year, the council increased the "fee in lieu" in South Lake Union to $21.68 per square foot of extra residential density, with the goal of setting the fee high enough that developers (who have pretty much always just paid the fee instead of building affordable housing in their schmancy new buildings) will find it financially preferable to build affordable housing instead. The problem, according to some in South Lake Union, was that downtown enjoyed a lower fee, giving developers an incentive to build there instead of South Lake Union. 

No more. The legislation the council is considering will raise the downtown fee for extra residential density to South Lake Union's $21.68—leveling the playing field, at least for developers.

3. The consensus at the transit advocacy group Transportation Choices Coalition's holiday party last night at FareStart among transportation bureaucrats, legislators, activists, and bloggers was that "Plan B"—King County Executive Dow Constantine's plan to put a vehicle license fee and sales tax increase on the ballot to fund Metro—was both preferable to the roads-heavy proposal on the table in Olympia and necessary, given that the state plan is stalled anyway.

"It's time to take matters into our own hands," said one local transit bigwig to nodding approval from a County staffer and state legislator.

Yesterday's big meeting in Olympia to hammer out a transportation package compromise went nowhere after Democrats made their latest proposal to the hamstrung Republican negotiatiors who are reportedly constrained by their doctrinaire caucus.

 "It's time to take matters into our own hands," said one local transit bigwig to nodding approval from a County staffer and state legislator.

4. The three top brass at the city's Office of Intergovernmental Relations (the lobbying shop for the city council, mayor, and city attorney in Olympia) were all let go by mayor-elect Ed Murray in his first wave of firings in November. Yesterday, all nine members of the city council heaped praise on OIR director Marco Lowe and his deputies Craig Engelking and Kelsey Beck, appointees of outgoing mayor Mike McGinn.

After complimenting Lowe's homemade biscotti, council president Sally Clark (who didn't get any biscotti the last time Lowe brought some, when the council was considering his appointment four years ago) said, "You guys have been really, really great to work with. The council, in particular, has been very active in Olympia and you've handled that very well. That could go both ways—you've got nine people who want to be active in Olympia, congratulations—but you guys have been so open to talking to council members about what we're trying to do. ... I know that you'll be really great public servants in your next capacity as well." 

Mike O'Brien added, "When I think about the difficult situation you're in, coordinating nine different individuals at the table here, plus a city attorney and a mayor and taking it down to a really politicized environment in Olympia, I don't even know how anybody could do that job. ... I'm just amazed at how well you've been able to pull it off. I'm going to miss all three of you guys."


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