Thursday, August 27, 2009

While Anchorage City Workers Are Asked To Cut Work Hours, Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright Gets Windfall $10,000 Per Year Pay Raise

While Anchorage city workers are being asked to forego previously-negotiated pay raises and are even getting ready to have their work hours cut in order to save the city money, Wasilla is going in the opposite direction. They're giving the biggest pig in their trough a windfall $10,000 per year pay raise. The old "Stein Gang" is back, albeit under a different name and with different players. Media story published by the Mat-Su Frontiersman.

On Monday August 24th, 2009, the Wasilla City Council voted to increase Mayor Verne Rupright's salary from $75,000 per year with a 1.5 percent increase each year in office to $85,779 and a 2.5 percent annual increase. Spearheading the effort was the mayor's ex officio hod carrier on the council, Leone Harris, who even after it passed, still insisted the raise wasn't big enough. Harris would have rather seen the ordinance passed in its original language, giving the mayor a 10 percent increase over the step below and a salary starting at $94,357. Fortunately, her avaricious designs were somewhat restrained by an amendment passed during the meeting bringing the mayor’s compensation down to that of the department directors.

Of course, Harris bent over backwards to justify this move. “His position is equal to that of a CEO. He is responsible for the entire operations of the city,” Harris said. “If we want to keep our city out of trouble and out of lawsuits, we need people with an education behind them running for the position. If you are not willing to pay them, you won’t attract them.” Harris also pointed to a raise given to the city clerk three years ago to further justify her position. The council determined that the clerk was not being paid comparable to clerks in other cities around the state and gave her a $14,000 raise. The same matrix was used for evaluating the mayor’s position, and the city’s human resource specialist determined the position should come with a salary of $102,000.

Not a word about whether or not Rupright had actually added $10,000 of value to Wasilla during his tenure so far. Whether an elected official actually earns a large raise by adding value to the stewardship no longer seems to enter the equation. The standard excuses nowadays are "we've got to pay them like they were in New York City", and "if we don't give them the keys to the vault, we'll lose them".

And of course, those who oppose the introduction of winner-take-all turbo-capitalism into the public sector are "mean-spirited", or "have an axe to grind". Leone Harris claims that those opposed have let personal politics slip into the decision. “I believe there are people on the city council that have a strong dislike of the mayor that is sitting in the seat now,” Harris said. “Two people on the city council are trying to micro-manage the city. They have an axe to grind because the mayor fired a few of the administrators.”

Oh, now I get it. The city council wants to reward Rupright for firing a few administrators by giving him some of the salary they would have earned. So if firing administrators was intended to save the city money, obviously that didn't work because the savings would have been partially swallowed up by the raise given to Rupright.

Councilwoman Dianne Woodruff, the sponsor of the amendment dropping the salary back down to the previous step, said she resisted the amount precisely because she is focused on the position, not the person. This mayor may have the background to warrant a bigger salary, she said, but past mayors have had less skills, and no one can say who will be elected in the future. Woodruff admitted Rupright is working harder than the previous two mayors but said it is hard to justify a raise in the current economic conditions. Senior citizens are not getting a cost of living increase this year from Social Security, she said, and Wasilla just doubled the water and sewer rates. If she was offered a raise for being on the council, she would decline.

“He volunteered for the job. I don’t think any elected official should ever get a raise while they are in office,” Woodruff said. The latter statement is probably too extreme in the other direction, but a $10,000 windfall raise clearly is not deserved unless it can be shown that Rupright added $10,000 in value.

And to add insult to injury, Verne Rupright not only justifies the raise, but says the bar should be set as high as possible. In other words, the sky's the limit. This is no different than the winner-take-all culture that took over the corporate world and helped dent the economy. At the height of the feeding frenzy, the ratio of CEO to worker salaries had reached 418-1; even lately, some corporations have been using TARP funds to pay executive bonuses. Now this apostasy has crept into the public sector.

It will be a while before Wasillans can "punish these pigs". Both Leone Harris and Verne Rupright will be in office until 2011.


  1. So? That is Wassillies problem not Anchorages.

  2. Actually, the Frontiersman article you quoted is incorrect. The item brought before council would have put Mayor Rupright at grade 26, step D, for a salary of $101,803, a $26,803 raise, or 36% more than what he signed on for. A reasonable cost of living raise is fine, but I have long been averse to US Congress members voting themselves raises, and don't feel it looks any better when local officials influence their own pay raises while in office.

    Dianne Woodruff

  3. Actually, City Workers were not asked to take a cut in hours but were in fact given a minimum 3% raise. That was the minimum raise. Most received 5%. You failed to mention in this story that the raise proposed for the mayors position was to bring the mayors pay up to the standard pay that mayors in like sized cities through out Alaska earned. So, if the city clerk can get a $14,000 raise to bring her up to standards what is wrong with bringing the Mayor up to standards? Also, you failed to mention that had the position of the mayors pay stayed where it was six years ago the pay would be approximately $102k a year. The past council voted to punish the mayor at that time by cutting her pay which now every following mayor will have to suffer for. Anti-socialist but not antisocial.