Port Townsend City Council addresses compensation during workshop

Posted 4/21/21

If money talks, it’s only a whisper to those who are elected to serve on the Port Townsend City Council.

But if the city wants to see more diversity in its representatives, they’re …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Port Townsend City Council addresses compensation during workshop


If money talks, it’s only a whisper to those who are elected to serve on the Port Townsend City Council.

But if the city wants to see more diversity in its representatives, they’re going to have to pump up the volume.

The value of time — whether councilmembers should be better compensated for theirs — was a topic of council interest during its April 12 workshop.

Most of the council said they supported a re-evaluation of their salaries.

A common refrain among the councilmembers is the notion that an increase to compensation would serve to attract a more diverse crowd to seek a city council seat, instead of only those who can afford to devote the time necessary to council duties.

“If we ever really want true diversity, we have to recognize the value of time,” said Councilmember Amy Howard.

Using a single mother who has a full-time job as an example, Howard estimated the current demands of serving on the city council would likely be prohibitive for all but the most stubbornly civic-minded candidates.

“Because of the amount of time it takes up, the weirdness of schedules, the lack of pay, the likelihood that that person could succeed in the role is small,” she said.     

Howard said her role on the council often comes with a tangible cost, resulting from the breaks she must take from her day jobs to tend to council affairs.

The lack of decent compensation, she added, was also the reason why she couldn’t dedicate more time to taking on additional leadership positions within the council.

“I ran for city council because Port Townsend basically saved my life,” Howard said. “I wanted to give back to my community.”

Howard said she wanted to serve following her time spent as a homeless youth. But when she made the decision to run for the city council, she didn’t fully understand the depths of the commitment.

Howard said she devotes hours to learning about the various issues addressed by the city, all in an effort to remain an informed representative. Illustrating her point, she cited her summer 2020 reading list: training manuals for the Port Townsend Police Department.

Despite having to juggle two day jobs “to support her council habit,” Howard still placed the benefit of attracting a more diverse council well ahead of any desire to be better paid for her work on the dais.

Councilmembers are currently paid $500 per month or $6,000 annually; the mayor receives $750 per month or $9,000 annually.

As a comparison, the city of Poulsbo — which has an estimated population of 10,602, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — pays its city councilmembers $750 per month or $9,000 annually. 

The city of Port Angeles, which has an estimated population of 19,832, roughly twice the size of Port Townsend’s population, pays its councilmembers $550 per month. 

Councilmember David Faber said the lack of adequate compensation for city councilmembers serves to only attract wealthy people who have the time to dedicate to such endeavors. That, and folks who otherwise have an “ax to grind.”

Councilmember Pamela Adams pushed back at Faber’s characterization.

“I don’t agree with David’s two categories,” Adams said. “I don’t think anybody on this council today could fit into those categories and I think there’s just a lot of people out there who really care about helping their communities to thrive.”

“I also agree completely; I have to work, even though I am semi-retired,” Adams said. “This $500-a-month really helps with my ability to live here. Even though it seems like a little amount for what we do, so I’m very grateful for it, actually.”

“I think that we aren’t going to be talking about someone being able to have a living wage. I mean, it’s still a part-time job and we’re just hoping we can get to a point where it’s not going to cost you anything to be a city councilmember,” Adams added.   

Nora Mitchell, Port Townsend’s finance director, presented two paths available for approving compensation changes. Salary changes may be enacted by a majority vote but will not take effect until the new term starts for each council position that voted upon the change.

Second, salaries may be set by a salary commission — not the elected officials — and can be implemented within the term of the serving councilmembers.

Mitchell noted that salary increases recommended by the commission could take effect immediately but decreases would have to wait until the next term for each council seat.

As for a potential timeline for establishing a commission to review councilmember salaries and implement the pay changes into the city budget, Mitchell said the commission could possibly be established in May.

A decision could be ready by September.


7 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Larry Kallenberger

The idea of a city manager system is that they get the big bucks and run the city on a daily basis. The council sets policy and provides direction. In strong mayor systems councils are traditionally paid salaries because they are also part of running things on a daily basis. I do not think salary is what motivates most people to run for office. If people aren’t running it is more likely the feeling that people get that there are cliques who run things mostly on behalf of tourism interests. How involved has the council been to allow Fort Worden public Development Authority to run wild. You appointed mostly older white men with backgrounds in what they describe as hospitality. You provided no general thinkers who might have spoken up about the failed mission.

Example:The county, with the blessing of the city council, awarded $150,000 to the authority in 2019 to refurbish buildings for use as seasonal employees who couldn’t afford market rent. Did anyone ask why we needed to bring in people who don’t live here to do seasonal work when there are so many people already here struggling to pay rent where they live. It appears that you were bringing in people from hospitality training programs that board members were involved in to further those programs and build a reputation as a hospitality training center. Were those the freshly scrubbed kids from other states with the name tags showing their home to make white upper middle class visitors feel safe and comfortable.

As a council you chose to ignore what was going on out there because a group of what that board you appointed called stakeholders. You let them get by with serving their own interests along with a shadow clique of tourism and business interests. You failed to pay attention to what was actually occurring as long as those people weren’t complaining. The interim director there was your city manager at the time and the Fort Worden director was put there by him. The feigned ignorance based on needing an arms length between you and the enterprise you created was really a lack of oversight and responsibility.

It doesn’t matter who you put in those deck chairs now that the ship is sinking. To allow any discussion of creating a series of non profits in order to borrow money because the current group failed is more of the same or worse. Who loans money to non profits created to what amounts to bad money after good? Evidently Kitsap Bank who rarely makes any loans to their customers has two million of depositors funds to throw away. The premier tourism training center your tourist business and training board members were trying to create was sheer folly. I guess the idea was that it would become a destination tourism resort. Does that vision really fit a town known for quirky activities and progressive politics. Do we want a Sandals experience to be what we are about and do we want our visitors to be the people who value the safe isolated white experience a destination resort provides.

I think people come here because it is a unique place with creative people not because of the possibility of hanging out with an upper middle class set of visitors who come to town to observe the zoo and spend money. Those 15 rooms that Port Townsend suggested the county provide money to set up could be made available for people already here and the 15 people could be hired right here without needing student intern housing for schools that train people in the esoteric definition of hospitality. We have signs in our yards welcoming immigrants but we done have any and we say we want diversity then hire white college kids to make sure the visitors feel safe with kids like their own.

When I think of Port Townsend I don’t think of the Englishmen who came and played a role in shoving out tribal people and were rewarding with us keeping their names on our streets and buildings and communities names. I see two heritages for Port Townsend and the first is the tribal residents who were here for thousands of years before white people came to run roughshod over their welcoming nature. Second I think of all the disillusioned people who came here in the 1970’s and through hard work and dreams built the city we have today. Both should be honored with renamed streets and buildings including adding a tribal name to the Port Townsend or Townsend if you will that pays honor to someone who was a friend of someone British and had nothing to do with the place.

I am sure there is resistance because some are fearful that money spending tourists won’t find us. Does anyone remember Lew Alcindor who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Cassius Clay who gave up his slave names and chose Mohammed Ali. We cling to names that don’t deserve eternal recognition that we give them. We can be more unique in deed and action. It is easy to find friends in Port Townsend but much harder to break through or into the cliques that run the town in official and unofficial ways. I don’t begrudge the council compensation if it is necessary that they have more but in a city with so many volunteers and so many bright and creative people our feet are stuck in the cement of tourist dollars.

It is a Gordian knot and the more we depend on it the tighter the knot will become. If the city wants revenue they think tourism related sales tax is the answer and support what those interests want. When you see streets or facilities built or improved they aren’t the tenets you live on. They are the streets and projects that we think are needed to please and attract class visitors. We need money to pay for them so we work harder to bring more here which causes us to spend more to keep them happy

. It will take time to regain the authentic nature of Port Townsend and the Fort Worden Public Development Authority is a lesson in why we are doubling down on the wrong things. The one thing they did that I support is providing a home for many non profits and community assets. They spent too lavishly and opted for below market rents and were going to make up for it with(drum roll) tourism dollars. We could have had a successful trimmed down Makers Square if you want to call it that which reflected the Port Townsend vibe if we charged rent amd made it self supporting.

You don’t need a state audit to know that 191 employees was more about building a dynasty than anything else. The cities role was a hands off one when it shouldn’t have been. When the head of Centrum suggested that perhaps competing with private hotels and lodging might not be the way to go he was shouted down in the Leader for scaring the beloved visitors at the boards hospitality training center and disappointing their stakeholders. Not a word about serving the public that is in their name. When the board leaders stated in their opinion piece that they don’t like to discuss these things in public or in the press we learned all that we need to know about the operation.

When the director retired he was celebrated by board members as having promoted Makers Square and the Thing Music Festival as ways to realize the lifelong learning mission of the authority. Give me a break. Their mission was tourism and creating a center that their friends in tourism and hospitality training would envy. The police department when asked said that Ft Worden Authority area is controlled by the state. When that was questioned they thought maybe the county. A sergeant did clarify that it really was the city. When asked the police department thought the city manager office issued the permit for the festival. They thought the police department was responsible for permitting it. It was one person at the police department who signed a brief handwritten form who decided to bring 10,000 people to Port Townsend sending a private developer back to Seattle having collected well over a million dollars in ticket sales alone. No public discussion.

The police don’t answer calls on the weekend so nobody could ask any questions and most of the police department was being paid overtime to ride around in atv’s providing security for the promoter. Did the city show any interest at all. NO! The city ignored it and went silent. The Leader under past management bathed the issue in color and demanded that people not complain about noise that was not monitored because we need not just a concert like this but we need this specific developer to do it.

Promoters promote but city officials should govern. The police department stated that the concert noise could have been as loud as the promoter wanted because the permit they issued but didn’t know they had issued did not set noise limits. In essence they think one person signing a handwritten permit has the authority to approve a permit and interpret that approval as overriding city ordinances in effect. That one person in the police department is unlikely to have been comfortable bringing 10,000 people to town without a stealth clique of leaders encouragement. When asked if the city would be willing to simply require a sound study to help direct loud sounds in the most beneficial way to residents they ignored it.

Who wants to slow down a promoter who is putting big money in his Seattle based pocket. I saw that they cancelled the second annual weekend concert due to Covid and it was listed as a community sponsored event. Really! A private promoter makes money using public land and facilities is suddenly a community sponsored event. Do I blame the promoter for what promoters everywhere fo which is promote. No, he was good at it and it wasn’t his job. It was the job of the Port Townsend Coty Council to act on behalf of its 10,000 residents instead of the 10,000 that the promoter brought here.

Was it to increase business for local merchants. One fair follow up article by the prolific reporter Lily Fong showed that business that relied on locals was way down that weekend along with traffic. The traffic management of concert goers was OK but only because so many residents stayed home to avoid crowds.

I guess these are the sorts of things that demand a salary increase so that there is time to provide oversight. Let’s just hope that more pay results in a different way of serving residents rather than tourists and promoters.

Wednesday, April 21
Marge Samuelson

Maybe its time the Leader put a limit on the number of words used in a comment, similar to the Letter to the editor. Or present them as an Opinion Piece. Sometimes less is more [The saying is used to convey that less of something—a smaller amount of it—can at times be better than a large amount of it.] Just a suggestion.

Thursday, April 22

Too many thoughts Marge? Check out some of the spin articles this week and get a quick adjustment. Things are GRRRRRREEEEAT!!!! According to well paid staffers.

Glad I caught you here. Your info regarding the money for the "Parklet" coming through the BOCC was not true. Greg Brotherton did answer my questions and set things straight, very politely and succinctly. The City of Port Townsend after over a month is silent regarding the process to turn much needed parking into the "Parklet". The $25,000 comes from City lodging taxes. No parking plan for this summers "recovery" as things are already getting crowded.

Ice cream instead of vegetables.

But good news Marge-- Less words from me after this week.

This week I am announcing my own "retirement" from commenting publicly regarding the state of Port Townsend. If you didn't get the drift you never will. I came here to a quite different town 25 years ago after giving years of service as Daystall Tenants Association chair at the Pike Place Market. What I called funky town, still echoing the 1960s and 1970s became Monterrey North, now Carmel North.

Similarly, at Pike Place an out of touch well paid PDA staff did damage regularly, that was packaged in statistics that looked good but stunk more than the dumpster by the fish market. That Council also had its power core, and folks on the Council who never questioned and voted Status Quo.

I even went to the State Attorney General regarding over a million dollars a year in fraud, who referred me back to the PDA that managed it into existence. So, when the FWPDA formed here I felt obligated to warn this community. I still did up until this week when all can see the State covers its tracks as does the FWPDA. Too few of the public followed the real details and spoke up. It is how it is.

Eventually I realized that my efforts at countless meetings at Pike Place could never override the basic disrespect that most everyone had for each other. With smiley faces, for personal gain. I watched it devolve over many years. I remember winning an issue with the Historic Commission at the Hearing Examiner level that was moot, because the Historic Commission had "broad powers", then not getting financial support from the damaged community to go to Superior Court. We had one of the premier law firms in Seattle to coach us. I learned a lot. Document, document, document. A few months later everyone who did not contribute complained because the covers over outside spots we were looking for were needed as the weather changed. They had no sense of cause and effect. They had paid little attention.

Paul Revere, the story goes, rode but once through town warning of the approaching threat. My horse is worn out. As I finally did at Pike Place, I realize I am too long at the fair. Other places and realities await. Doors have opened that only an old goat might experience, and sheep would never know existed. Seemingly content sheep none the less.

I thank the City of Port Townsend, the real one that is laws and codes written to keep egos and greed in check, and look forward to new horizons. Do check out this weeks pieces by John Mauro and Mari Mullen. Seems all is just fine after all. Time for others to step up. Or not. I am too long at this fair, but leave with memories and friends for life. Onward.

Harvey Windle

Pike Place Market Daystalls as Atypical Woodcraft 1976 to 2000

Port Townsend 1996 to 2021 as Forest Gems Mill and Gallery

New horizons 2022 to ....................

Thursday, April 22

Very wonderful letter Larry; thank you so much for your time and your effort. 'Best comment we've ever seen in this Chamber Of Commerce Advertisement Posing As A Newspaper. 'Had to go n grab my hubby and have him read your comment, too. We are cheering, over here. 'Sent the link to our grown kids and we are all amazed. You laid the truth out like a pro. Our house is for sale and then we're out of here. Too much Monkey Business in this sick, sad, fake & jive little town. 'Was nice while it lasted. We were too busy working and raising kids to realize the clique had sold the town to the highest yuppies. Now it's too late. We will miss WA, but not PT. Good luck to the hangers on.

Marge, good lord. What a comment from you.

Harvey, you got the right idea ol' pal. It's a slow-motion disaster, so it can still be outrun. Hope you can get sold and get out before the whole stinking ****house crashes and burns. And it will. Most folks seem to have not figured it out yet, that the town they thought they knew is gone. Financiers and marketeers have got all their purchases made and the ink is dry. Watch now, as DisneylandPNW arises from the once-tarred sand.

Thursday, April 22
Marge Samuelson

I've lived here for a long time, sorry to upset you with my comment, but what's the point of writing something that no one wants to read. Get to the point. It was just a suggestion. Sorry you have such harsh feelings for Jefferson County. Sure, it's changed over the years, so have I. Busy life and then in my "golden years", time to relax and enjoy this really special place. You are not the first person to leave town. Some people seek change, or the community doesn't fit into their idea of who we are. The best solution is to get out there and volunteer, it keeps you young and involved. Good Luck in your next adventure.

Thursday, April 22
Look at yourself

An example of a fully programmable human being......"I've lived here for a long time, sorry to upset you with my comment, but what's the point of writing something that no one wants to read."

Who are you to decide "what everyone wants to read"?

You are unaware of Larry Kallenberger's qualifications to outline a systemic problem, Marge. You do sadly represent the voters who allowed and continue to allow this all to happen.

Too many words. And stuff. Soul suckers.

Friday, April 23
Marge Samuelson

Not going to respond to some one who won't use their own name.

Friday, April 23