Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fidley Watch - Justice for the Downtrodden

After suffering more than a hundred years of repression at the hands of King County taxpayers, Seattle Port Commissioners will finally earn a living wage. Last month, while the rest of the country was discussing the federal budget and sequestration cuts that would decimate parts of the federal government, the Seattle Port Commission voted itself a seven-fold increase in pay.

Currently, Seattle’s part-time commissioners, who are elected to office by the voters of King County after having spent tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars campaigning for the post, receive $500 a month plus a $12,500 annual per diem. Following last month’s vote, commissioners will now “earn” $36,000 a year, for what one commissioner estimates at less than 25 hours a week, becoming the only salaried port commission on the West Coast. With the per diem, their compensation rises to $48,500.
According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, Commission President Tom Albro proposed the increase as a way to attract more people to the five-member body and make it feasible for people who have to work for a living to serve.

An average campaign for Seattle Port Commission costs in the neighborhood of $150,00, and requires a fair bit of time and effort. Currently, the people who serve on the commission have successful careers, many as attorneys. (For the record, Albro will not take the increase he proposed).

Even before the pay raise, there were almost 30 applicants to fill two vacant positions on the commission – one left by Gael Tarleton, who resigned to serve in her new position as a Washington State legislator and one left by Rob Holland, who quit under a cloud of personal and professional problems.

Commissioner Bill Bryant, whose term doesn’t expire until 2015, was out of town and didn’t vote, but had made it clear he opposed the increase. Commissioner John Creighton voted in favor of the increase, although current commissioners won’t be eligible for the raise unless they’re re-elected. Creighton’s term expires in December of this year, and a number of credible applicants among the 30 who presented themselves could give him a run for his money. One of these is attorney Courtney Gregoire, daughter of former Governor Christine Gregoire, who was appointed to fill Ms. Tarleton’s vacancy, and will run for election to the position in December.

Creighton worked alongside former Commissioner Lloyd Hara in 2008 to try to raise commissioners’ salaries and provide them with staff. That effort failed, and Hara subsequently was elected to the full-time position of King County assessor.

According to the Times article, Creighton believes the Seattle Port Commission “has long been dominated by rich old white men and individuals whose employers financially benefit from their position on the commission.” Creighton has most recently served with two women, a man of Japanese heritage and Rob Holland, who describes himself as “young, gay and black.” This makes Creighton the only “rich old white man” who stands to benefit from this increase.

Welcome Aboard!
Pacific Maritime Magazine is happy to introduce Pardise Amirshahi as our new advertising sales manager. Pardise has been in marketing for more than 20 years, most of those in print advertising, so she’s right at home with the Philips family of publications. Pardise is based in Southern California. Give her a call to discuss your ad schedule at 949-293-9545 or email her at pardise@earthlink.net.