Now isn't time to give Walla Walla city manager pay hike

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The Walla Walla City Council took a misstep last week when it boosted the salary of City Manager Nabiel Shawa by 2 percent.

It’s not that Shawa hasn’t worked hard at a difficult job. It’s the lousy timing that’s troubling.

Walla Walla city government and all local governments in Washington state have seen tax revenues fall short of projections in the midst of the Great Recession.

As city leaders put together the 2013-2014 budget, things looked bleak. In November, at the Council’s first public budget work session, Shawa gave a report on his preliminary budget plan to cut one police officer, one fire prevention officer, close the Pioneer Park Aviary and raise property taxes by dipping into the banked levy capacity.

Shawa and the Council did their jobs. It is appreciated.

But as the city’s top paid official, the public spotlight is on Shawa. The City Council too. They have to set the right tone, particularly in these tough economic times.

The Council members used poor judgement in approving a $2,800 a year raise for Shawa as positions are being cut.

It doesn’t matter that city employees, depending on their jobs, received pay raises around 2 percent.

Positions went unfilled and other cuts are being made. Giving the boss $2,800 — bringing his salary to $142,800 a year — doesn’t set well. Shawa is now very well compensated. When he was hired in 2009 his starting salary was $30,000 more per year than previous City Manager Duane Cole, who made $110,000 after seven years on the job.

When the economy rebounds and city government isn’t looking at cutting people and programs, Shawa should be in line for a raise. That might be a substantial raise if the pay freezes have left him lagging his peers. It is important to offer a competitive wage to retain talented people.

But right now taxpayers are economically pinched. Many Walla Wallans haven’t received even a penny raise for three or four years. Others have had their hours and salaries reduced.

In politics, perception is reality. The perception here — true or not — is the Council is handing out raises to officials who are very well paid while it’s taking cops off the street and raising taxes.

Council member Chris Plucker was the only Council member to vote against the raise. He praised Shawa for his solid work as city manager, but he said he couldn’t approve the pay raise because of the budget woes and the slow recovery of the economy. Plucker hit the nail on the head as if he was using a 20-pound sledgehammer.

“It has nothing to do with Mr. Shawa at this time. And the work he does is fantastic. I just can’t vote in favor of it,” Plucker said.

Plucker’s fellow Council members should have followed his lead.

In tough times like these, taxpayers are watching how government spends every dollar. When $2,800 is spent this way at this time, it doesn’t feel right.

Comments

namvet60 1 year ago

Well as long as we're cutting one policeman and one fireman maybe the most intelligent and expensive employee can cover a little more territory and cover a shift for each loss.

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RetiredinWW 1 year ago

Sort of like the retirement "raise" for Chuck Fulton, ill conceived and poorly timed. And the City wants to annex the area I live in? Nah, sorry, not interested! Not with that kind of financial wisdom and leadership. I want no part of it, even it is ONLY a couple thousand dollars!

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jubilado 1 year ago

Mr. Shawa deserves a raise. He oversees 250 permanent employees and an expenditure budget of $90,231,614. He is hard working and likeable. City Council members believe he doing a good job. Walla Walla needs to keep him here.

I didn't see an editorial against the $1,500 raise (to $151,500) for the Port Executive Director. At the end of 2011 the Port Commissioners voted unanimously to lower his salary by nearly $10,000 per year after putting the Port at risk of legal action. The Port has 13 permanent employees (as opposed to 250 for the City) and has a budget of $23,515,574, apporoximately 1/4 of the City's budget.

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

When you make over $100k in this city...boo hoo if you don't receive a raise...you're still doing just fine. And Kuntz never should have gotten a raise! Talk about a "do nothing" when it comes to bringing jobs to this area.

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namvet60 1 year ago

Just because your a nice guy and the council likes you and your doing your job does not necessarily trigger an automatic raise. He was hired to do a job and it is nice he is capable to perform it but to lose a policeman and a firefighter is totally ridiculous!

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wwnative 1 year ago

Congrats Mrs. Shawa on a superb letter. Or Mr. Shawa's secretary. Or someone that owes him a favor. And no, no one was suggesting that he isn't hard working or likeable. The fact that he has large responsibilities has nothing to do with the raise. It is just that any public official should think twice before accepting a raise at this time. port commissioner or city manager. At least he wasn't asked to take a cut.

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walla2butterfly 1 year ago

Well written. That said, I agree 100%. Many have not gotten any kind of raise for several years but continue to have all the same responsibilities. Were I work, many that have gotten hired over the last 4 years, have assumed more responsibilities, learned new skills but still have the same pay as they started. The board would love to give out raises to all the hard working dedicated employees but it is just not possible at this time......

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zerocat 1 year ago

Wow its all about the greed. $142,800 a year is crazy amount to make to be lazy. Who ever came up with these pay scales for these job positions were crooks. Throw em out in the apple orchards doing hard labor for minimum wage and see how quickly they quit. LAME.

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dloudermilk 1 year ago

Lead by example. That is something the city leaders don't know how to do. Mr. Shawa does a good job, and I am sure works hard. But when you tell your employees for the last several years that revenues are down and there just isn't money for raises, then turn around and give all the department heads raises, and a retiring police chief a raise the day before he leaves retroactive, who by the way had been an outstanding leader and employee, and now give the manager a raise just doesn't sit well and doesn't give much credibility to the claim of no money. The employees and citizens don't trust the council members motives.

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wwnative23 1 year ago

Thank you to Mr. Plucker for voting with integrity!

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mytwocents 1 year ago

Mr shawa is without conscience and is clueless about what we want or need

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wwnative 1 year ago

I realize that $2,800 isn't a huge amount when compared to some raises, but it could be used along with the money that the city urinated away to fight a stupid painting on a building to help the city's needs. But when you realize that many of Walla Walla's people haven't seen a raise in several years and a large number of people actually took 3% pay cuts. But we have to give a city manager a raise when others are sacrificing. I didn't like losing 3% of my income, but as a group, if we sacrificed, maybe it would help. Not getting an almost $3000 dollar raise may not be enjoyable but not accepting it would show a small bit of solidarity with the people who do pay it. Especially for a person making six figures a year. Voting to give it and accepting it shows a rather appalling lack of caring by the powers that be. Oh, and congrats on showing that darned toy store scofflaw! I will sleep better tonight knowing that evil octopus has been vanquished! Maybe The obscene yellow color on the Cayuse winery will be next. Oh, thats right, it's a winery. They're sacred. The octopus should have been holding local wine bottles. then the city would have loved it.

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Ortega 1 year ago

Way to go Mr. Plucker!

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