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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

City Council rejects advisory vote on full-time positions

A proposed advisory vote on whether Spokane should have a full-time City Council won’t be on the November ballot.

A divided City Council blocked the idea Monday and put the measure on hold for at least a year with a 4-3 vote.

Councilmen Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori proposed putting the idea to voters as a way to promote community debate over what is expected from the council rather than continuing to increase pay and add staff.

“They obviously don’t want to have this conversation,” Salvatori said of the nonpartisan council’s liberal majority, most of whom already view their council duties as their primary job. “I just cannot imagine any circumstances under which you would be afraid to ask the citizens what they thought.”

But Council President Ben Stuckart said an advisory vote would interfere with two important bond measures likely to be on the general election ballot for improvements to the city’s streets and parks.

“That needs to be the conversation we have this fall,” Stuckart said. “For the next six months, that’s what we need to be talking about.”

Sparking the proposed advisory vote was the city Salary Review Commission’s approval of a 4 percent pay bump for the council beginning in January of next year. It will boost annual pay to $57,200 for council president and $31,200 for the six council members. Each council member also is now provided with a full-time assistant.

In 2008, council members were paid $18,000 a year and the council president received $40,000, and all shared one full-time staff member.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” Allen said. “Rather than let it creep up, we just wanted an advisory vote.”

Although the city charter specifically prohibits the mayor from holding any other job, no similar restrictions are mentioned for either the council president or the six council members.

But with council members serving on various committees and regional boards, the job is seen as increasingly demanding and is among the reasons cited for the 4 percent pay increase next year.