Testimony Begins On Linking Muni Executives’ Pay To Interest Rate

Anchorage Assembly member Dick Traini.
Anchorage Assembly member Dick Traini.

The Anchorage Assembly heard public testimony on an ordinance that would limit pay for the city’s executive workers on Tuesday night.

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One person testified about the ordinance that aims to hold executive workers of the Municipality to the same standards as the city’s union workers by linking their pay to the inflation rate.

Jacquelyn Hoflich, the Chairperson for the Municipality’s Human Resources Advisory Board, said that she thinks a salary survey is needed before any changes are made to executive pay.

“This is something that industries do all the time and it’s to make sure that you’re comparing like jobs to like jobs. Just because they have similar job titles does not mean they’re similar jobs, and we want to make sure that the municipality remains a competitive employer,” Hoflich said. “If you are going to remain competitive and be able to retain very good talent to be able to run the municipality in an efficient way, which equals economic way, hopefully, you need to make sure that you are competitive in Anchorage.”

The ordinance was proposed by Assembly member Dick Traini. It would tie executive wages to a 5-year average of the consumer price index for Anchorage, plus 1 percent.

Elvi Gray-Jackson
Elvi Gray-Jackson

Earlier this year, the Assembly passed a controversial ordinance backed by Mayor Dan Sullivan, which limited the pay and benefits of the city’s union workers by tying their pay to the inflation rate. Sullivan, whose term as mayor ends next year, has since filed to run for state office.

Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson said she wished Hoflich had been on hand to testify on behalf of union workers then.

“A lot of what you’re saying in terms of competitiveness and some other issues that you bring up applies also to our other employees who have rules and regulations now that it’s gonna be really, really hard to attract people as you mentioned, qualified folks,” Gray-Jackson said.

Freshman Assembly member Amy Demboski, who represents Eagle River, asked Hoflich if working as a public servant was in some way different than working in the private sector, and if that could be a factored into a survey of executive pay. Hoflich said that wasn’t really a factor.

“You’ve gotta feed the bulldog,” Hoflich said. “You’ve gotta make a living and you have to weigh you’re quality of life, what you’re willing to give up and when you can get a similar type of job for better benefits and more pay – why wouldn’t you. (Demboski: well hopefully because of service.) That’s true. It would be very nice to say that. But the reality of situation is that a lot of people don’t have that luxury.”

Public testimony was also scheduled for another measure proposed by Traini that would have reduced the amount that could be contracted out by the Municipality for legal matters from $30,000 to $10,000, but nobody testified and Assembly member Chris Birch moved to postpone the item indefinitely which passed 6-5.

The Assembly scheduled a work session on the executive pay ordinance and public testimony will be continued on August 9, when the the assembly will likely also take a vote.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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