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Councilmembers’ blame game continued with Clyde Hill Police Departments cost-of-living grievance

What’s happening: The Police Union representing the Clyde Hill Police Department negotiated a cost-of-living increase with the Mayor’s Office last year. Police officers were unhappy with the negotiated package and vocalized their concerns publicly. The initial details of the police budget were as follows:

  • Total budget of $1,986,954 in 2023, to serve Clyde Hill and Yarrow Point.
  • This is an increase of 7.8% from 2022.
  • Yarrow Point covers about 25% of the budget.
  • The Police Department’s budget accounts for 35% of the General Fund.
  • We are fully staffed with seven officers, a Chief of Police, a Lieutenant, and a records manager.

As of January 10th, the City agreed to a new contract. For 2023, the police wages will increase by 2.5% in addition to the 4% for a total of 6.5%. The agreement includes a Cafeteria Plan. Officers will be able to pay qualifying medical expenses on a pre-tax basis. Link: Updated Police Contract.

Why it matters: Two members of the City Council – Councilmembers Friedman and Muromoto – conducted an exit interview for a police officer who departed the police force for a different industry in September 2022. The police officer expressed concerns over the results of the then cost-of-living negotiations.

What they’re saying: Members of the Clyde Hill City Council – including Councilmembers Friedman, Hachamovitch, and Muromoto – are accusing the mayor of not prioritizing the cost-of-living increases for the police in the 2023 budget. Presumably, the new agreement made by the City resolves the issues raised by the police.

Yes, but: The Clyde Hill City Council has the power to allocate more money toward police personnel. While the Mayor writes the initial budget and manages administrative work for the city, the city council sets overall policy and approves the budget. The budget is the ultimate policy document.

We’ve covered the 2023 budget previously, noting the City Council complained about the deficit and then did nothing to solve the problem. They did the same thing with the police budget and – ironically – it’s come down to the Mayor ultimately resolving the issue under insults from council.

Prior to complaining, two options the council could have looked at:

  1. Budget for retention bonuses or a one-time bonus to cover record inflation, or
  2. Given the budget deficit they blamed on the Mayor, they could have looked to another revenue source in the form of a tax increase to fund higher police wages.

There is one additional option that we’ve considered for them: How much money could have gone to police had certain councilmembers ended the practice of sticking taxpayers with the bill for their pet projects that benefit themselves? We’re crunching the numbers and will get back to you.

Do councilmembers really care about cost-of-living increases for police officers enough to act? Or are they using this issue to continue their unfair attacks on the mayor? Given their lack of action, we think it’s clearly the latter.

The blame-game pattern: Over the last few months, certain city councilmembers have made it abundantly clear that they have personal grievances against the mayor. They dishonestly use issues like our city’s budget deficit and police as weapons.

The big picture: Local governments and elected officials should focus their time and attention on providing basic government services well. Instead, our city council is acting like Congress.

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