Arlington council bucks idea for panel on salaries

By Brian Kelly

Herald Writer

ARLINGTON — An idea that would seem to be a political slam dunk — creating a citizen-based committee to study salaries for all elected officials in Arlington — is meeting a dawdling but daunting defense.

City councilman Dan Anderson has been asking since January for council support in creating a committee to review salaries for Arlington’s mayor and council members. Although officials have expressed support, it’s taken more than six months for the idea to return to the council’s agenda.

Since its reappearance, however, the city council has refused to approve the committee in the form that Anderson favors. And though the proposal had its first council committee meeting Monday, one of the three council members indicated the idea may go nowhere.

"I think we’re going to have an impasse, boys and girls," councilman Oliver Smith told his fellow council members this week.

The main sticking point is how citizens will be appointed to the committee. Anderson wants a seven-member group, with two committee members appointed by the council, one by the mayor and the final four selected by a random lottery of registered Arlington voters.

Other council members, citing advice from the city attorney, believe it’s the mayor’s job to appoint citizens to the committee.

Anderson said appointing citizens who are randomly selected would keep elected officials accountable to the public. Just appointing citizens who volunteer will create the perception that the city is stacking the committee

"It’s all a charade, I feel, if we make the appointments," Anderson said.

But councilwoman Bea Randall said it would be hard to get citizens to serve on a committee if they haven’t volunteered for the work. And residents shouldn’t automatically assume that the mayor’s appointments to a salary commission would be predisposed to granting him pay raises. Mayor Bob Kraski has already tapped all the people he knows to serve on committees, she said.

"This mayor has already ran out of friends and church members who are going to do things," Randall joked.

Opinions vary, however, on the need for the salary committee.

"We’ve gotten by without a salary commission for 98 years," Smith said.

The idea isn’t dead yet. Because state law on salary commissions was recently changed, Arlington will seek information from the state Attorney General’s Office before moving forward.

Kraski said he’s open to randomly selecting some committee members, but said Anderson will continue to make political hay out of the issue.

"No matter what we do, he is going to accuse me and the rest of the council of loading this thing," Kraski said.

You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to kelly@heraldnet.com.

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