Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Staff Salary Adjustments

Since there has been some commentary (and disbelief) expressed about staff salaries and past salary adjustments, we thought we would review the available data. We first posted about staff salary adjustments in July 2012. We promised to post more, but events overtook us and we never did. Given the recent commentary and controversy, we felt it was time to complete the thought we had back in July 2012. Here are the facts and documentation. You decide.

First, we received the following tip from a source within the County itself.
On January 10, 2012, the Council passed, by Resolution 5-2012, staffing levels and pay and benefit schedules for 2012.  This Resolution adopts the new salary schedules - without showing what it represents for individual positions.  Therefore, I’d like to add some perspective prior to these adjustments taking affect with the August payroll. 
The reclassification/salary study, required under the bargaining agreement, was completed under Pamela Morias’ leadership.  The results provided raises ranging from over $10,000 to nearly $16,000 each for five unrepresented people – Ms. Morais, her significant other, two other department heads, and two managers – while over 40 other staff-members show reductions by as much as $8,655.  This is public information, yet the public has not been made aware of it.   It is also unclear whether the Council was ever aware of it, as this was never presented in open session.  On September 20, 2011, there was a closed session held pursuant to RCW 42.30.140(4)(b) to discuss matters pertaining to collective bargaining.  If this document was presented then, the information pertaining to unrepresented employees should have been presented in public.  Staff was given an opportunity to appeal their reclassification by the end of November, after the proposed pay grade placement chart was distributed at an all staff meeting in October.  The document distributed at the all-staff meeting revealed salary adjustments to individual positions.   At the point the document was distributed staff-wide, it became a “public” document, yet was protected as a draft bargaining document by Ms. Morais, who withheld it from a media records request in January of 2012. 
It was reported in the Journal that the County will be cutting 14 positions to close the shortfall of $800,000 for next year if the tax increase does not pass and by 7 positions and $400,000 if it does pass.  This article also states that over the past 4 years, the County has gone through five rounds of budget cuts, 32 FTEs have been eliminated, and employees across the board have been required to take furloughs.  By implementing the reclassification and its resulting salaries, this nets an overall increase in wages in the neighborhood of $400,000, with approximately $175,000 on the side of unrepresented staff (including the hefty raises mentioned earlier – for department heads already at the high end of the scale).  The totals were arrived at by taking the positions listed on the proposed paygrade and placement chart, matching them as best as possible with employees, and using the median current wage against the median proposed wage.  In full disclosure, the worksheet used is not complete, as there were more positions listed than could be matched with employees, and some may be placed incorrectly.
It is understood that the union employees are entitled to this schedule, but this is not the case for unrepresented staff.  The study itself may be flawed in the comparator data or its interpretation, especially in light of the shrinking staffing levels, leaving managers with fewer employees and fewer projects to manage.  Considering the economy, reduction in staff, and the out-migration this county is experiencing, the time is not right for such increases.  Reconsidering the management salary increases and preserving at least one position prior to implementation and the election could prove to have a positive caste, demonstrating good will by San Juan County officials to its electorate. 
And below is a link to a folder containing supporting documentation related to 2012 salary adjustments. According to the data, Pamela Morais, the County HR Head who commissioned and supervised a 2011 salary study, received an increase that lifted her own annual salary from $76,455 to $87,797. Her partner, John Manning, received an increase that lifted his annual salary from $84,822 to $95,040.

Were either of them (or any of the others who received increases) underpaid?

Regarding the attached files, pay particular attention to the spreadsheet, which summarizes pay adjustments by person. The powerpoint presentation explains the purported justification for the adjustments.

(Click the folder below to open. Click the files to preview or download.  If you cannot view Flash content, click on this link.)


  1. Argh! Can't access the posted files because doing so requires Adobe Flash player, which does not work on my iPad. Any way you can post the files in something other than Flash player format? Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I think I might be able to post a direct link to the two most important documents. I will work on that to get you access. Check back a little later to see if I've been able to figure out a work around.

  3. What's the total headcount of all government workers in San Juan County? I would love to see a breakdown of the whole hairball.

  4. Janice? Please continue with how the community was not victimized by those with power...

  5. It is sort of like Wall Street, economic power and money concentrating at the top. Manning and Morais are starting to look a bit like our own local "one percent."

    Ninety five grand plus benefits in this day and age isn't a huge salary in the public sector these days, and maybe not for King County which we are all striving mightily to become.

    But for managers to manipulate the system during a union bargaining process like this to plump their own pillow at the expense of the rank and file is well ... rank ...

    Speaking of Rank ... how's that bridge thing working out? But I digress.

    So why did the Council give this a pass? They were probably buried by the CAO ...

  6. Why did council give this a pass? They were kept in the dark, as always. The union negotiations are always conducted in closed session, and the council is handed a resolution to sign.

  7. Are you saying that our little podunk County pays a Human Resources Manager more than $100,000 ($87,797 plus generous benefits)? Why? And that the study she directed (through yet another consultant?) produced a huge raise for her, her "close personal friend," and a few others in senior management?

    How does the County allow the HR manager to handle her own partner's salary and performance evaluations? And those of her weekend sailing buddies, the Hales?

  8. Brian EhrmantrautMay 29, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    It would be interesting to compare these salaries to the median individual or household wage in the County.

  9. Thanks for comments directed to my post. I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, just hoping for specifics on accusations lodged against others. RE victimization: There is a difference between being victimized and acting like a victim. I really appreciate the detailed information from TH today and will get back to you on the Marias/Manning situation as soon as I can. If it becomes necessary to apologize, I will gladly do that (but I'm still seeing dots that don't connect). Janice

  10. Yes there are dots to connect while at the same time being mindful that connecting too many dots can lead to conspiracy theories. Boy. But there are some patterns here to uncover.

    So, is John Manning the same fellow who told the Council a few years ago that if his department budget got cut, people would die? And in the meantime he took a healthy salary increase?

    Really? And this is the fellow who is helping Bob Jean cobble together the community conversation report? Really?

  11. @Janice, and thanks for a willingness to examine documentation and respond. Is that too much to ask from our elected officials?

  12. I'm grateful for a news outlet that actually does some investigation and works in the adversarial role essential to keep government accountable! Good Work, TH-I'd get a subscription if I could

  13. Let's not forget that mainland attorneys can be found for $125 an hour and up. Here it is $250 and up. I realize that you have to bring all that equipment here.

  14. I also appreciate what the TH is doing. There is one heck of a knowledge base being built here, now going back over a year. Today's report shows how valuable that knowledge base is becoming.

    Remember that this blog was an outgrowth of public outrage over the CAO and the behavior of the Friends of the San Juans.

    Many islanders made the day trip to Friday Harbor to speak before the Planning Commission last year during a remarkable day that Planner Hale would prefer not to repeat, even if she has to bring deputies in the room keep the rabble at bay.

    But the public was not heard. There no feedback. No impact. Later on failed candidate Lisa Byers at the county's request facilitated a day long meeting designed to articulate public views about the CAO. Again, utterly no follow through. Nothing.

    The Trojan Heron arose in defense of necessity. I think it is just getting started.

  15. You might want to check your facts. No current employee's pay was reduced.

  16. Comparing the average household wage - when many jobs are in the service industry - waitress, housekeeper, etc - isn't really a fair comparison.

    Just how much do you make Brian? Oh, I forgot - you're not obliged to show your wages, excuse me income.

    BTW I am not a government employee, never have been and am not related to one.

  17. I think Brian's point, which is well taken, is that County employees are most likely way better paid than are many SJ County citizens who have to pay those salaries via tax dollars. It will be interesting to see the numbers. But do we need a mainland equivalent pay structure in a rural County?

    Isn't it a bit irresponsible of the Council to allow salaries to keep going up when at the same time planning to ask for a tax be paid by people whose income is way less and not increasing?

  18. Regarding jobs in San Jan County--does anyone else wonder why the Orcas Chamber makes it its number one priority to support the Visitors Bureau's efforts to turn the County into more of a tourist attraction instead of working to develop living wage jobs? The Chamber and VB are essentially working to keep citizens of the County at low income levels by encouraging the development of low wage jobs (selling ice cream in the summer for example.). Tourists will come without us begging them to. But these are not the jobs that most folks want, because they won't support individuals or families. They are also seasonal and cyclical and the first jobs to go in an economic downturn. So why would our organizations work to support and develop these kinds of jobs? It shows a callousness towards people who live and work here.

  19. My friends and I are working way below our educational and skill sets. I haven't had a raise in four years, so with cost of living my pay has decreased, not to mention extra financial burden from raised taxes-nothing like threat to Public Safety to convince taxpayers. I understand and accept this is the sacrifice I choose to make to live in this island paradise that we all love. What infuriates me is to see this underbelly of corruption, incompetence and arrogance by what look like shadowy elite pulling puppet strings. It seems an attempt to make island life untenable through unapologetic price fixing and discriminate application of extreme policy enforcement. I'm sorry that a working man, Brian McClerren, wasn't elected to the council. Rick Hughes ran, in part based on his business background, so it will be interesting to see if he will support the life of wage earners in the County

  20. Hope we don't see the Orcas Exchange complain about high county wages paid, seeing how they haven't paid any taxes and are subsidized with a free grant of land.


  21. There is a "shadow" economic development policy at work.

    Eco-tourism "development" has as its goal the transformation of San Juan County into a National Park, within which some private concessions will be allowed.

    The intention is to depress the wage base to a bare minimum. The intention is to prevent the development of living wage jobs.

    Eco-tourists demand broadband, and like all the other infrastructure we have here, its supersized to the summer season while the rest of us pay for it in taxes.

    Wealthy home-buyers demand broadband.

    Don't think its about your needs. It's not. We need better broadband because the expansion of eco-tourism and the high-end housing market demands it.

    Listen carefully and you will hear eco-tourism and broadband and transportation (bike lanes) all spun together while the Shoreline Master Plan is written to kill off a real working shoreline forever.

  22. Brian EhrmantrautMay 29, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    @12:45 Anonymous

    Actually, by state law, I *am* obliged to show my wages, income, and assets, and you could trivially locate the information if it is of great interest to you.

    As to many county jobs being in the "service industry" - isn't that what government is *supposed* to be? A service to the citizens?

  23. Unfortunately while government is supposed to "serve" its citizens, our County seems to be more oriented to serving special interests....which has been certainly the case with other levels of government, but I didn't expect to find it here.

    But "serving" whatever constituency doesn't mean you are in a "service" job. That term usually describes restaurant, hospitality, tourist (eg. Tour boats, concessions, etc.),and housekeeping type jobs, which tend to be seasonal and inadequate to pay bills with. Yet we let our citizen funded tourism bureaus develope these kinds of jobs. Where is the County money that would create jobs that would raise the economic level for County families? Who voted to make our economy tourism dependent? And why don't people tell Council members they don't want to spend their tax dollars to do this given it is not in the best interest of our fellow citizens? It is shameful!!!

  24. There a lot of talk about the velvet coffin of the tourist economy. Okay. So -- what other jobs? What other economy could the county start investing in? New prison? A nuclear power plant would have lots of high paying jobs? Or a toxic waste dump.

    I am all for higher working wages -- but specifically -- for what work sector?

  25. Thanks, ECK, for dealing with and fixing the Flash program issue. The link you provided works like a charm on my iPad, and now I can see all of the documents you posted. Thanks, again. Very interesting data.

  26. I love Brian E

  27. @6:54

    Folks who live in rural areas all over the Country have to deal with the question of how to grow their economy or die economically. Some succeed and some don't. It takes work and creative thinking and can be done but there are usually no easy answers. If it was easy it probably would have been done already.

  28. As a born here islander I have to ask the question...

    Is our County Council or our local government responsible for "creating jobs" ? What? Really? Is that their "job"?

    Are these artificial jobs? Manufactured? What?

    Does this sound as ridiculous to everyone else? Do they think they are GOD?

  29. I can name some well-paying types of jobs that could happen right now:

    For this island we could use at least one real estate appraiser; a full service wood/propane installation and service company, a commercial and residential glass company, another plumber or two, another roofing contractor; carpet and tile; appliance repair and installation; furnace and in-floor heat repair; small scale moving service; water system repair; drywall worker; masonry and tile person, house painters. There is existing demand for these skills now to service existing homes.

    Less restrictive CAO regs would allow new building and would breathe new life into our existing excavation and construction businesses.

    I'm sure there are lots of other options if people put some thought and energy into it.

  30. @ 7:38 and 7:45

    This kind of stuff could be the focus of our Chambers on each island and--don't we have a County Economic Development Council--isn't that funded with tax dollars? What do they do?

  31. From @6:54 -- thank you @7:45! Other ideas? And @7:50 -- good idea.

    Also from me -- @6:54 -- sorry for the typo. Should have read: There IS a lot...I was typing too fast. Sorry for the illiterate sentence.

  32. Recruiting 2 or 3 Luxel sized businesses is what we need. 100+ jobs with people who will buy local food, build new houses or buy existing inventory.
    The call center on Orcas and now in FH is a good start.
    Recruiting anyone in need of high speed Internet is a bust but there are plenty of other things that could be done. I have some ideas I am working on, light manufacturing ish type things that don't involve the heavy industrial consequences..
    Can we talk the tribes into converting their piece of the rock in eastsound into a casino? That would bring jobs. It's tribal lands too so they can tell the planning department to stuff it.
    Start lookin for small business in areas that have become taxed and regulated to death like California.

  33. Good questions about what, if any, government responsibility is for creating new jobs. "We're the gov't we're here to help" generally means- Be very afraid. But could they at least not impede job development? That's all I ask

  34. Casino in Eastsound is definitely an awesome idea! The rock there is tribal land, time to bring in an indian casino, build a nice dock so peeps can sail in drop some coin in the slots!
    Yea high-speed internet is a bust 'cause the local cave-people only want rocks to beat on and smoke signals because technology is killing the bees don't ya know.

  35. @6:54 We can't have Nuclear because we're a "nuclear free zone"...DOH And a "GMO free zone" ... DOH
    And a "multi-branch family tree free zone" ... DOH

  36. Thankfully we are not a drone-free zone (yet) so there is still good money to be made in surveillance and monitoring services.

    Broadband is for intelligent sustainable people from Seattle who need to stay connected when then come here while they commune with nature spirits. Broadband wasn't really meant for the little people.

  37. Interesting stories in the Journal about some of the very few manufacturing companies located here.

    I live here 365, but I have a well traveled brother who is fairly near the top echelon in drug research. (well,I couldn't say "high up" could I.) He visits frequently and we talk about the economic situation here.

    He says pharmaceutical production and maybe some research would fit here nicely.

    We have routine aircraft flying in and out daily. Pill making does not need large amounts of anything.

    Pharma pays well, and we have good schools, an extremely healthy environment and SAFE environment for kids. Makes it easier for a firm to attract and keep good people.

    He feels something about the scale of the Beaverton Business park on SJI would be appropriate. And he points out that these types of manufacturing attract symbiotic businesses. Much like a new phone attracts new apps.

    Maybe the County needs at least one less planner, and one smart high end sales type to work at attracting such businesses. (Such a person is not likely to generate lawsuits either.)

  38. Talk about invasion of privacy. Photo of the day on
    Is that estate open to the public?

  39. I wonder if the county could give us a cost to date on the Mount Baker Rd./Wetlands project. Surely they must have a file on that project and keep close tabs on it.

  40. Another great Kivisto idea. Photo of the day will now be aerials of different peoples properties. I'm jealous of you Paul. I have some yard art to that's been sitting there for years, how were you so lucky to get picked?

  41. Pharma research was proposed as an island scale business development opportunity as far back as the early 1960s.

    There are reasons these concepts don't get traction here. The same reasons we cannot get rid of ideologically driven and incompetent planners. The same reason we have the Friends casually trespassing and suing anything that moves and the same reason driving the big money behind the last election. The same reason we are facing increasingly authoritarian local government and expansion of police power.

    That the big money lost was a shocker. This created important but fragile and very narrow window of opportunity for our communities and working families.

    Folks, we have to talk about systemic change here. Change in the county organizational culture. Change in the business climate. Change in who is elected to office and appointed to committees.

    Real change requires change management. Active management of the council policy and land use agenda. We we do not manage it, others will be more than happy to.

    Everything else is band-aids, white wash, and pain killers.

  42. Agenda 21 mentality alive and well among some number of the citizens and our government!

    I believe given the power, that some of our citizens would force our life styles to closely mimic the pre-industrial era. No electricity, no fossil fuels. No meat.
    I'm not sure if they have come to terms with burning wood! Everyone is an oragnic farmer. Maybe a solar panel here and there. Sailboats replace the Ferries.
    Direct democracy. And so on.

    In ths vision, there is no economy to worry about.

  43. 12:45 pm and 3:12 pm--a note about Brian E.--while I do not know his income, I DO know that he volunteers untold hours of his time trying to make this County a better place to live. And the people at the Exchange are also volunteering untold hours of their time trying to get a highly- valued community resource back. I applaud them all.

  44. The Orcas chamber of commerce is more like an NGO club. It participates in all the goofy county schemes without questioning what impact they have on real businesses. Like the push for scenic byways (which ironically will add signs everywhere, a growing eyesore).

    The County DOES grow jobs. Jobs for the eco majors. (Not econ, but eco.) Need a job? Why, let's find a grant that pays you to do little more than talk to your eco-friends. Then the next year we'll get the County to pay for it. Look at the people recycled through different do-nothing County jobs. (Not real jobs, not the real workers, of course.)

  45. Re: Orcas Exchange
    Nothing says "trust us with money and land" like being substantially delinquent on taxes. Nothing.

  46. Comparing the exchanges handling of funds to the counties handling of funds is not a very good analogy. The exchange is probably doing a much better job of that than the county.

  47. How did we get from county salaries to discussing the pile of garbage on Orcas that burnt?
    Did they ever determine a cause of the fire?
    I know what could be ruled out, it for sure wasnt caused by ignition of a bunch of tax forms laying around.

    Anyway, it will be nice to see this subsidized feature back up and running again. Hopefully with better management or oversight, since they clearly need it.

  48. I cannot believe we want growth here!
    not industry, and why would we even consider to make it easy to establish industry on the islands where drinking water is scarce and all island land is somewhat critical.
    San Juan county Government itself could certainly stand to lose 50% of the hired help, and as far as salaries go, most of the folks I know gladly accept at least a one third pay reduction for the sake of living in paradise,, which sadly due to Government intrusion isn’t paradise any longer due to the human or inhuman conditions
    and lack of privacy concerns by our staff and elected

  49. Economic Dev idea - a Lopez NASCAR track would be AWESOME!

  50. @6:01
    You go!
    Don't let coherence get in the way of an intelligible rant.
    I tried to understand it, really I did. Honesty, the CAOs made more sense.
    Thanks for the spirit of posting though.

  51. It is NOT growth! It IS a search for another healthy economy and this discussion on the TH is the first I have witnessed in a long time with actual productive thought involved. (You know, you won't find this elsewhere, Janice.)

    Another economy? Why that? Simply put the islands have relied on ever climbing real estate values and associated building + Summer tourism to survive. And survival it is.

    A huge ad spend and push is on for this weekend open studio art fest.

    The following week it is the garden tour. I'll attend both and likely spend more than I should.

    Now what?

    A one percent person walks into your shop and spends $2,000. That's nice and now what about next week?

    It is crucial we build a home grown economy, both farm and tech, and then there will be no growth requirement or this total reliance on tourist dollars.

    And then, just maybe, the "I got mine people" will finally shut the F up.

  52. We are just beginning the "Community Conversation for the Rest of Us."

    Though I will be interested in reading the word cloud report under preparation by Bob Jean and John Manning.

    Several years ago I asked an old friend, she and her husband bought acreage way back in the day, artists, raised their family, just making do, carpentry and house cleaning. Community volunteers, local nonprofit boards, all that. Very protective of the natural world and rural lifestyle.

    Out of curiosity I asked a question, and the answer I got was not what I expected at all.

    Basically, I asked, how would you feel if the population in the islands increased by 10,000.

    Oh, she exclaimed, that would be wonderful! That's exactly what we need!

    Any thoughts along those lines? She went on to explain in detail why, but I'll leave that to another time. I thought she made a great deal of sense.

    Remember, she and her guy bought acreage back in the hippy days, artists, environmentalist minded, raised their kids here, close to community ...

  53. The County, EDC, OPALCO, BPA, and various other Gov't agencies project county population growth to be 1.4%/yr for the next 20 years. We're about 15,300 permanent residents today, and in 2033, we'll be at 20,202 or so. About 5000 new persons. The average household according to the Census is 1.94 persons.
    This implies 2500 new dwelling units, or 125 per year.

    Is this going to happen? I don't know. Is there enough water to support 5000 new permanent residents? Will FOSJ attempt to prevent the construction of 2500 new dwellings? Does this imply an additional 2500 vehicles? A 32% increase in electricity purchased from BPA, which will cost 40% more than current rates?

    Who is looking out for the long term?

  54. With a free market approach and a lot less Government things would quiet down slow down, If we reintroduced guest house construction we would reduce sprawl and preserve a lot of acreage. The extremely limited Real economy by itself would limit growth and we could save millions every year on phony experts that like to impose arbitrarily on private citizens, we could use our public safety money to enforce laws that are reasonable and necessary to keep people safe from drug dealers and robbers and don't forget trespassers. Half of the PA s office could go, and the rest could be re assigned to support citizens having been victimized by those such as the friends and others that never learned how to live a alongside friendly neighbors. Well that's what I think.

  55. I'm not sure any of the projections have proven out. The Cassandra warnings of a quarter million population in the future turned out to be false.

    Over the past census, the county population grew by just over 1,000. That is not sprawl. Moreover, in recent years, state annual population figures and projections show the county population leveling off, flat-lining.

    And the age distribution in San Juan County does not contribute to any socialist rainbow and unicorn eco-fantasy of vibrant, thriving, sustainable community. Hogwash.

    We're becoming Geriatric Island. We've flushed our middle class away with the storm water. Right now our children have little future here.

    As to whether the islands can handle 5,000 in addition to the presumed 1.4 percent growth?

    The answer is very simple. Of course. We already have the infrastructure. And we have the tourist population swell. And we're doing everything we can to extend tourism season, right? Eco-tourism? Tens upon tens of thousands burdening local infrastructure that is already in place to service them?

    Let's think about this clearly.

  56. Who knows the details in the Growth Management Act concerning available building lots?

    If I understand correctly the County is required to supply additional lots whenever the existing ones are built on. And I believe that means annexing property to the town whenever that situation arises. So...does that mean the "town" could go on out and out and swallow up the countryside?

    Does anyone know the details?

    I know people who quickly scrambled their permits together as the CAO was being put together. Those were the people who could afford them of course.

    And then they talked supportively of the new regulations w/out ever investigating what they were. They supported an idealistic idea w/out realizing what they were really supporting.

    I think in fact, that some of the former Council people had that same confusion. And that belief is supported by their lack of coherent answers to my questions about the "science" etc...

    Oh my...didn't mean to go back to this sorry subject. Still so frustrated.

  57. @8:24
    No need to apologize for your frustration. When delusional planner Shireene Hale is writing regulations that even she can not understand, frustration is a likely byproduct.
    Now Shireene has the audacity I accuse well respected members of the public of ficticious crimes because the dared speak out against here regulatory nonsense.
    Shireene is currently writing more regulations, including those that will benefit her husbands position.
    Stop these people. Show them the door.
    Shireene Hale has single handedly caused more damage to these islands than anything. Ever.
    The guest house thing wasn't this divisive.

  58. How do we address our burgeoning problems with county managers?

    Well, we award them, of course.

    Council will be awarding the county engineer, who is currently spending lots of money paving over Orcas island, for her "good streets"? (Council at its recent retreat decided to make an award or compliment an employee at every council meeting from now on. This should be great to watch. Think they'll ever get to anyone who does the hard work of the line employees? Naa. Our high-paid managers need morale boosting, I guess.) Any questions from council about the Mt Baker rd mess? The huge delays, the cost overruns, the oversights (oops, a wetland? who knew?).

    Stan the Man, our PR guy, royally screws up the aerial photography and obfuscates six ways to sunday in videotaped sessions, basically ignoring council, but gets a shout out from council at the retreat for doing such a good job? Can that be true?

    And saving the best for last. It appears that our favorite First Amendment defender, who wants to clear the room using sheriff deputies whenever someone disagrees with her, has been anointed to succeed Mr. Beliveau, who himself seems himself to have been awarded some kind of golden parachute in exchange for the huge messes he has left behind. Yup, some claim that Ms. Prim-in-public but reportedly a raging screamer back at the office has been recognized for her fine work on the CAO by being given the top job. How could someone with so little management experience, a bad temperment, and no building code experience get picked to run the whole show? Hhhmm. Perhaps it was just a bad dream.

  59. I keep looking for things the County has done right in the last ten years or so.

    Certainly there has been lots of low cost housing projects, but they carried with them the very large mistake of being built anywhere cheap land was available.

    The guest house control nonsense went in exactly the opposite direction any planner who actually has some smarts would have designed. Putting additional development with existing development has been a widely accepted planning tool for at least 20 years. Not allowing such development and killing any creative design with a bunch of arbitrary regulation is foolish.

    Has the County done some things right? Sadly, it seems the County has stood in the way, rather than support the ideas and visions of the island population.

    I think the post citing the here and now as a break with the moribund past is right on.


  60. We outlawed pharmaceutical research and nearly every other kind of medical and biological research when we passed the anti-GMO county ordinance. Virtually every aspect of biological or medical research these days involves bioengineering and some sort of genetically modified organism.

    As far as where we go from here, that is not government's job. Government sets the planning parameters in the Comp Plan and though the use of zoning. Then, they should get out of the way. However, our government doesn't get out of the way. After the zoning is set, they put overlay on top of overlay (like the CAOs) to the point where the underlying zoning becomes a meaningless distant memory.

    We don't need a bunch of planners figuring out where we should go from here. We simply need to be left alone to live our lives as we want. After some basic planning and zoning (and I mean "basic"), get out of the way and let people do what they want.

    No population projection for these islands has ever proved correct, and I don't know why anyone would genuinely worry about them. They are just a scare tactic. Where will we get the water? Where will be get the land? OPAL doesn't seem to worry about these issues, and they're on a building binge.

    The drive to limit development here has meant that we have limited technology on the islands. We are a bastion for Luddites. I'm not necessarily for the OPALCO plan, but we have no fast internet, no GMO, no cell towers, corruption of science by the Friends and the county, and bad math and science in our schools. We have alternative this and alternative that, but very little mainstream competence in anything. We have marginalized ourselves.

    There is a lot of exciting science-based activity in various places around this country, like the Tech Shops and Make Center movements in various cities, but there is zero culture here for blending technology and creativity. I don't think we should focus on attracting industry so much as fostering a culture that embraces technology and creativity. Out of that will come wonderful ventures that no planner could ever dream of.

  61. Brian EhrmantrautMay 31, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Those concerned about population growth and sustainability might want to take a look at the Bailiwick of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. It is 46 square miles, smaller than Orcas. Population is ~98,000 people. 57% of the land is in agriculture. It has one of the strongest economies in the world.

    I wonder how they manage?

  62. Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain have a population density of 570/sq mi, the San Juans less than 100. Balearic Islands actively populated since Phoenician times.

  63. Trojan Heron Readers are indeed Victims of a management of their very own employees that should be serving the client they serve, and that pays their salaries. In my house when the accounts are down we all equally accommodate the shortfalls. We all take pay cuts, we give up essential services, like dentistry insurance, optical insurance, beef entertainment, autos and even food.
    our county managers have no clue the cuts that we that are providing a job to our government workers do and are taking.

  64. I have spent a bit of effort trying to find at what population level a small town becomes self sufficient. (A successful economy.)

    So far I have had no success. There are small towns, very small towns, that are doing well with a few thousand people, while there are other small towns with 20,000 people that are not doing well at all.

    Population it appears to me now is no measure for success or failure.

    As Brian Ehrmantraut just pointed out there is an island smaller than Orcas doing well with a much larger population. (San Francisco has eight hundred thousand souls on less land than SJI)

    Those crying wolf with population growth, need to seriously take a look at their motivation.

    Locally, I think Salt Spring Island in Canada is a model we need to look at.

    It is obvious, if we are going to have planners, we need to have planners way, way beyond the level Ms. Hale hovers at.

  65. Hornblats and mugwumps an economy do not make. Crabs hat and like forth a planner do no stake. Hag thug and gyros may be good to eat. Wayward biff upside my seat.

  66. I'm checking in again on "Staff Salary Adjustments:
    I have looked further into the issues raised by the Trojan Heron and would like to offer the following information gathered from what I believe to be very reliable sources. According to what I have learned, Pamela Morais was neither the initiator of the classification study nor the director of it. An outside firm conducted the study and the data produced came from that organization, not from Ms. Morais.
    The only requirement to conduct the study came from the Union contract. The inclusion of unrepresented and management employees was at the direction of the County Council.
    The last classification study had been done in 1997 so the salary levels were out of step with current (2012) levels and caused problems in recruiting because the salaries were lower than applicants expected. We had to pay more to actually get positions filled.
    According to what I believe is accurate information, Pamela Morais did not take a salary increase, although some others did. There were no step increases in 2012. Morais did get a 1% COLA this year, along with all of the other employees. (This includes management and unrepresented). Salaries determined by the data to be too high were frozen with the intent of letting COLA eventually bring them into line. No salaries were reduced. The average increase among employees who received raises was 48 cents per hour.
    The Trojan Heron’s signature element is withholding judgment until all relevant data have been unearthed. I appreciate the opportunity to add information I have discovered and believe important to any judgments made on this issue. Some of my information might be in error. If that is the case, being wrong is a small price for me or for TH to pay in moving toward the truth.

  67. Withhold judgment until relevant data has been has been produced. Outside firm conducted the study. Union contract.
    By Jove! and we thought the pig was the sole casualty in the grand battle. Seems like manifest destiny is alive and well. Some divine right for some provided by a higher power.

  68. Well, there seem to be some variation in the reports. Now I understand that the HR manager was not involved and that the Union made us do this and that an outside consulting firm did the survey and although one source suggests the HR manager took a substantial raise, another report suggests the opposite. If I'm understanding correctly.

    I think I need more information before I try to draw any conclusions here.

  69. @ Janice

    My reaction -

    "p morais was not the initiator or the director of the study because a consultant did it"
    The buck stops with no one in this county, and that has to change. If a salesman or consultant puts one over on our public officials, our officials say they had no choice. This is how pictometry happened. This is how the cao and adamus happened. This is how the rampant grant mismanagement happens. Now it looks like this is how some staff got raises during a time of financial constraint. The consultant did it.

    "The union required it"
    Then I would expect no non-union staff received raises from the union-required study. Why were non-union employees even included in the study?

    "We have to pay more to get positions filled"
    If this were true, we might offer open positions at higher salaries, but it is no reason to give a raise to someone in an already occupied position. Also, this is tacitly admitting that the county will continue to ignore the local labor market in preference to the prothman formula of searching the "global market of government administrators." We have a locavore movement. We have other "buy local" movements, but when we hire into county government, we search everywhere but local. Is county government ever going to support local employment, or will it always focus on creating laws that drive locals away while at the same time importing government lifers from elsewhere for the best paying and most stable jobs in the county?

    "Average pay increase was $0.48 per hour"
    I don't care what the average is. It's the total that matters, and based on $0.48 per hour and 200 FTEs, the total additional salary cost comes to about $200,000 each year. It also matters who got raises and why? Did department heads get raises? If beliveau got a raise then not only his current pay increases but his retirement.

  70. Is the consultant's study available?
    I'd love to see it. What positions were not being filled? I just don't believe it. Rather than pay a premium to have people work here, we should get a discount. This is a gorgeous posting, and once you're on staff, nothing ever happens to you, until you take your nice big pension.

  71. Thanks Janice and all the other commenters for the clarifying information. While it's not clear exactly who got raises or why, it does seem as if some raises did happen in 2012. And based on the numbers from either Janice's sources or others, I think I agree that the increases appear to have totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional annual salary cost.

    Would readers agree that is a fair conclusion based on what we've seen?

  72. We need to look at why we hire so many "consultants" for relatively easy research and decision making.

    The TH, in one stroke, does more basic spade work than so many of these extremely over paid people.

  73. I'm a little upset with the poster that is trying to say population does not matter.

    I think it does matter, but the poster may be right that it has nothing to do with the success or failure of a given economy. I do think we need more people here. I think we need the real estate inflation and the tourist dollars. I agree totally with the need for permanent jobs year round. Good pay would be good too.

    I have read about Bailiwick of Jersey as recommended by Brian E (can't spell) and find it very revealing.

    When you go to Burlington you see tons of "Beautiful British Columbia" Canada License plates. And there is a similar situation in Jersey where they have the VAT (Value Added Tax) on the mainland, but not there on the islands of Jersey.

    The people from Canada come to Burlington inspite of the miles because it is a good deal.

    Getting to the point here. About six years ago I remember (I think it was the assessors office) saying almost in apology that their sales tax number had by thrown off by the sale of a mega yacht that took place here. Extra unexpected money came in.

    This is one of the things that makes Jersey a successful economy. They have no VAT.

    Recently we raised our sales tax. After reading this I'm positive we should have lowered it.

    We have excellent large capacity harbors and available small plane landing and parking.

    Like Jersey we could and should become a place where big assets are exchanged. No negative impact I can think of, just lots of sales tax falling out of the sky.

    Will there be competition? Sure, but we are in a great position here and we could jawbone any threat with a warning that we will undercut all comers.

    The Assessors office would have to apologize every year.

  74. Any comments on the "Brick works" flyer?

    I have one. Following the excellent teaching example of our local government, the flyer presents the now derigueur lost costs to ask for more money.

    I'm sure the rent paying shops are delighted to see the BW plans to sell everything but used cars. (Later for those, maybe)

  75. On the county website current job openings: Marine program coordinator and a administrative specialist in community development and planning. Did a couple people leave or they just need more help?

  76. Thanks to the salary adjustments we can rest assured those positions will be promptly filled, during these days of high unemployment and fierce competition for just about any job out there.

    How many of these positions are paid for by grant money? Marine program coordinator for example?

    Basically, you have to raise salaries here because the County has such a terrible reputation as a place to work despite the lovely views and cavorting whales. Think about it. Hard to attract talent to a toxic working environment. Were the County to have a better reputation for its organizational culture and working climate, we could attract better employees at more reasonable cost.

    Look to the current management structure, and know that the tone is always set at the top. Generally the rank and file is not the problem.

  77. OMG 76 comments?! My last ones on Staff Salary Adjustments (to answer questions others have raised) are:
    Local Union 1849 invoked their contractual right to have the salary study done.
    The outside firm was selected by a joint union/management committee. I don't know the name of the firm.
    Pamela Morais did not take a salary increase in 2012, at her request. Evidently, everyone else did.
    Thanks to commenters and ECK. I have tried to avoid making judgments and just stick to (ideally correct) facts. This whole discussion shows how complicated issues can be.
    Over and OUT.

  78. Issues like diseases do become more complicated over time if not addressed earlier. Early and consistent public transparency is the best preventive medicine. Now I understand that a joint committee of union and management selected the contractor who conduced the salary study, as required by the Union. We don't know anything about the make up of that committee, who was on it or what their charter was. I assume it was this committee that supervised the salary review study. Who was on the committee and how does the public find out such matters?

  79. The counties response to salaries, over staffing and the budget is post listings for more staff on the county web site.

  80. Well they do need help. As in HELP!

  81. News Flash:

    Heron shot dead at a San Juan County Council hunting retreat.

    As the public was not invited, there are no witnesses to provide a full account. The council has assigned the county staff to investigate with the stated goal of placing blame on anyone but the council.

  82. Good news!!!! The rumors of the heron shooting are false. Retreats are public meetings. This one was posted as such and was open to the public. So someone surely would have gotten a photo of a dead heron on their smartphone.

    I've heard Friday Harbor House's conference room has plenty of seating. Surely more than enough room for all TH readers.

  83. Take a heron; lete him blode as a crane, And serue him in al poyntes as a crane, in scalding, drawing, and kuttyng the bone of the nekke a-wey, And lete the skyn be on, & c.; roste him and sause him as þe Crane; breke awey the bone fro the kne to the fote, And lete the skyn be on.

    Crane Rosted . . . his sauce is to be mynced with pouder of gynger, vynegre, & Mustard.

    - Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.

  84. Bueller?...Bueller?...Bueller?

  85. The Heron must be in Europe bicycling with Kit and Friends.

  86. Sure, the "retreat" was a public meeting. How many people showed up? Oh, I mean how many people NOT paid by the county showed up? That is an indication of how well the public was informed of it.


  87. sooooooo ......

  88. During such breaks it is, I think, instructive and interesting to go back and jump in anywhere on old posts.

    No question the TH crowd gets off some really great lines, no, not the poetry, but there is also thoughtful stuff that gets overlooked with the usual quick daily read.

    Will the new manager have a "meet me" booth at the County Fair? Might be an interesting break with the past, someone who likes to get out and talk to people. (Just us curb level people, of course.)

  89. Oh my god . . . where is my heron.

  90. Oh my god . . . where is my heron.

  91. Perhaps instead of waiting like a vulture, you could do some research in an area of local government that concerns you and post something of interest to generate some interest and conversation. The Heron isn't here just to feed and inform you, but (I think), also to provide a place for you to share what you have learned or your opinion on something already posted. We are all in this together, we all need to get off our duffs and express our own opinions. Just look at what is happening in the national news, we are finally hearing about irs, nsa, etc abuses. If people weren't speaking out about the abuses our government is dishing out to us, we would have no clue. Take the clue, folks. Wake up. There is a connection between the county wanting to get oblique pics of your property and the NSA wanting a long time record on every phone call you have ever made. We have lost our privacy, and, sad to say, even out here in these beautiful islands, we have politicians who are on board for this agenda.
    I am so thankful that this forum is here. I would absolutely love to see it evolve to a "real" forum with threads and postings and dates and all that.

  92. We always rant/rave when we get the info after the fact. They/them don't care it's been a done deal.
    What we need to know is what projects/plans the various county departments are pursuing and what grant fishing is being done.
    How do you find that? We have been cut out of the process intentionally.

  93. Ok here, I will go.

    Fact 1: Proposition 502 passed in SJC by the largest margin of any county in WA.

    Fact 2: The deadline for applications is rapidly approaching and there will only be a 30 day window for applications to be submitted.

    Fact 3: Vincente Fox who knows something about the Marijuana trade and security from his stint as being president of Mexico, and mass distribution of branded products from his stint as CEO of Coca cola Mexico just visited the SJI with venture capitalist Jamen Shively who expects to invest 100 million into the legal marijuana industry in the next 30 years.

    Fact 4: We have yet to have a community conversation of what the islanders would like to see out of the eventuality.

    Fact 5: Any one with an internet connection is welcome to comment.

  94. And the suggestion is? Our farm folks are going to have to get on track with drug production? With the big bucks coming to compete with northern California.

    Just wonderful. But, I think not. This small fry place can't compete with much of anything.

  95. I heard that the local government, with grant funds from the U.N. in support of Agenda 21 is going to start randomly beating us all with rubber hoses...yup, I heard it from Glen Beck and Michael Savage, they're coming for all of us, the obliques are just the beginning...

  96. A simple question, does anybody in the county know if they have done the Pictometry flights yet and if not when?

  97. Senator ranker demands action in speech on the Senate floor last friday evening. See the stirring video at orcas issues. We are sure to see some "action" now in the last four days of this session.

  98. Second Tier HeronJune 9, 2013 at 5:01 PM


    So since the TH isn't posting new topics, I propose a new thread for discussion:

    With a new administrator coming on board comes a chance for both the administrator and the new council to do a complete and thorough job of evaluating the upper management of the county. In private enterprise this is a common practice whenever there is a shake-up of upper level management. The council has officially begun the process (albeit by defacto circumstance) by hiring a new administrator.

    With the top tier officially in place, the job now falls to the administrator - with advice from the council - to look at each department to evaluate every department head and look at the structure of the department to determine what positions need to be redefined and/or added or eliminated. Upper management is employed on an at-will basis specifically for the purpose of making necessary changes over time in order to accomodate changes in the county government.

    Will the county take the steps to go through their entire staff and give themselves the opportunity to consider that there may be people out there who can better meet our current needs? Will the county consider an analysis of productivity and function within each department in order to assure that tax payers monies are being properly spent? Will our new andimistrator seek to strengthen the decision making process and clarity of reporting to the council so as to avoid a repeat of the recent pictrometry fiasco? Or... will we see a drive towards status quo decision making and little in the way of addressing hard questions from the citizens of the county.

    I suppose, only time will tell. Your thoughts?

  99. I vote for the status quo. #whynot

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