I reported on this back when it was debated in committee a couple weeks ago. While it's great for public sector employees to be well taken care of, a couple things about Carrasco's pay raise seemed excessive. For one, it's a hell of a raise all at once—more than $100,000 extra dollars a year. For another, the committee discussion of the raise came just days after the council approved compromise $15 minimum wage legislation, in which wage raises for the city's lowest paid workers will phase in over the course of three to seven years. The city council had even delayed that slow phase-in, pushing back the start date of the minimum wage hike to April of 2015. But then when it came to rewarding the city's top exec? Carrasco's raise, as the committee passed it, would be retroactive from January 1 of this year. Not only that, his salary is paid by the utility's ratepayers, something Council Member Kshama Sawant was quick to point out.
While the council ultimately approved this raise, they clearly heard some of the frustration that this move has caused among city ratepayers and lower-paid workers, some of whom came to testify today. Council Member Sally Bagshaw put forward an amendment to delay the effective date of this pay hike until July 1 of this year, eliminating the six months' retroactive pay initially proposed. That amendment passed unanimously, with Sawant calling it "a little bit less of a slap in the face" to low-wage workers whose raises were delayed by council.
In the end, the vote was 6 to 2, with Council Members Sawant and Nick Licata voting no (Bruce Harrell was absent). While Council President Tim Burgess stressed the routine nature of these salary adjustments, it just didn't sit well after such a careful, labored compromise for so many people on the low end of the pay scale. Frankly, they should've seen that coming.
And it's also renewed media attention on City Light—the Seattle Times just publicized the fact that the public utility recently spent $17,500 of a potential $47,500 contract with an online reputation-management firm to polish City Light and Carrasco's image online, so that Google search results for the utility and its CEO would be more positive. Wonder what this pay debacle will do to his online image?