SPOKANE, Wash. - Mayor David Condon proposed eliminating 100 positions from the city of Spokane in his 2013 budget, while giving substantial raises to five of his executives, some as big as $20,000. When it comes to the raises, Mayor Condon says the real story is that he eliminated seven managers and saved $850,000 dollars when it comes to department managers. As for the layoffs, he says 65 positions are vacant, meaning only 35 are filled. When it's all said and done, he believes only a handful will be laid off. The City Council President disagrees.
"It's a hundred positions being eliminated, 35 of them are filled right now. That's 35 humans, individuals that have names and families that are getting laid off because of this budget," City Council President Ben Stuckart said. "Can we really give five people raises that would save jobs when those other people are getting laid off?"
Councilman Steve Salvatori said in tough times, tough decisions have to be made.
"We went through four years of the worst recession in my lifetime and we hadn't shed a single employee. That's not right." Salvatori said. "I think if we want a responsive government we have to do this and I think it's being done as thoughtful and compassionately and strategically as possible."
Stuckart says the most frustrating part about the raises in a time of layoffs is that he didn't know about the raises.
"I was contacted by a reporter and I was asked about the people in finance getting $20,000 raises. I said, 'What?' We just got briefed last week on the finance budget by the finance department and nobody said any of that to us," Stuckart said. "I don't know if that's a lack of communication or if we're just being kept in the dark on purpose."
Mayor Condon insists that the five executives receiving substantial raises will be making up the work he took away when he eliminated seven managers. Condon says since they are salary employees, he can't pay them overtime. But Stuckart doesn't see how Condon can pay executives more when he isn't offering raises to the frontline employees.
"We have five street stripers right now and we're cutting one of those street stripers," Stuckart said. "They're saying service isn't going to be hurt so those street stripers are getting asked to work extra amounts, without overtime."
$45,000 Communications Contract
A week before presenting a budget with the elimination of 100 positions, Mayor David Condon sealed the deal on a $45,900 contract with a local public relations firm, a contract that Condon hopes will help the city communicate more effectively with its people. The City Council President says it all comes back to the budget.
"We're handed a budget, and a week before that budget was signed, a budget that includes a hundred position cuts across the city, $45,000 dollars for a P.R. firm is a little questionable." Stuckart said. "There are two full time people up in his office that deal with constituent outreach, is that really the best use of public money right now?"
Again, Councilman Steve Salvatori disagrees with the leader of the council.
"I'm supportive of it," Salvatori said. "I can assure you we're not wasting money. We're spending the money wisely. We're spending the money because we need to, and it's important for the citizens to get a good picture of what we're doing here and I think this will help."
Salvatori said he understands there's still some "shock-value" with the $45,000 price tag, with layoffs, and raises, too.
"The intentions are good, I actually believe the execution is good, but maybe we need some help with the messaging," Salvatori said. "Hopefully the communications contract can help us with that."