Redmond mayor disbands commission proposing increased council salaries

Redmond Mayor Angela Birney said Friday she is disbanding the city’s commission that was tasked with reviewing Redmond City Council member’s salaries and was considering significantly bumping up pay for the seven elected officials.

The independent salary commission had four proposals to increase the council members’ pay, currently $1,554 a month, but Birney cited just the highest proposal — $115,000 annually — among her reasons to disband the group. The commission had planned to meet next week to continue discussing the proposals.

Redmond is among many cities exploring increasing council member pay, wrestling with how to attract and keep councils with members from varying financial backgrounds amid rising costs of living, while also balancing city budgets that may still be hurting from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Birney announced her action on the city’s website just before 4 p.m. Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. She wasn’t made available for an interview Friday.

“As Mayor, my job is to manage the City and the financial resources entrusted to me by the community and to ensure that your tax dollars are spent responsibly on services that best serve the priorities of Redmond. To maintain the City’s finances, I have no choice but to take action,” Birney said in a statement.

In her statement, Birney also said commission members didn’t follow “required guidelines and processes,” tried to have special meetings with short notice to staff and the community, and hadn’t considered factors like the fiscal impact to the city, salaries in comparable cities and allowing sufficient time for public input.

Reached Friday, two salary commission members disputed this, saying they asked for and received analyses from other cities and data about the financial impact to the city. The other pay proposals were $5,000, $6,500 and $7,875 per month, and the fourth proposal for $115,000 annually comes out to about $9,500 a month.

The fourth proposal, Birney wrote, would require the city to increase revenues or reduce expenses of $870,216 per year.

Commissioner Matt Kanter said he was frustrated with the news, describing city leadership as “anti-working class” for not allowing the commission to continue debate on increasing pay.

“Even if you disagree with everything we were doing, do you think it’s fair for an elected official to shut down debate because it’s not what they want?” he said.

City Council members are currently paid for part-time work on city business. But council members report their workload is far more and can feel like a full-time job — there’s coffee with constituents, regional board and committee appointments, time spent in home offices emailing back and forth with staff.

Earlier this year, Birney, whose salary is about $145,000, appointed the commission to review salaries on the City Council. City Council members haven’t been involved in the commission’s proposals other than some submitting answers to a questionnaire about how many hours they work, out-of-pocket expenses and their thoughts on City Council compensation.

Councilmember Steve Fields said the decision was a continuation of the city mishandling the salary commission and said Birney weaponized the top-tier number to stoke feelings against the commission and, indirectly, the City Council.

“We didn’t have anything to do with it,” Fields said. “It’s created animosity toward the council.”

A city spokesperson said there would be an additional update Tuesday.

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