An unwise raise for the Port chief

A 9 percent raise for Tay Yoshitani, while other Port workers' salary-boosts are capped at 3.5 percent, sends all kinds of wrong signals.

A 9 percent raise for Tay Yoshitani, while other Port workers' salary-boosts are capped at 3.5 percent, sends all kinds of wrong signals.

It would be difficult to miss the debate over public employee pay and public employee unions now raging in this country. Given that, it’s hard to comprehend the Seattle Port Commission’s 3-2 vote this week to give CEO Tay Yoshitani a 9 percent raise. With the raise, Yoshitani will be paid $366,825 this year, according to a report in the Seattle Times by Mike Lindblom. Pay raises for other Port workers are capped at 3.5 percent, reported Lindblom, quoting port Commissioner John Creighton who voted against Yoshitani’s pay boost along with Commissioner Gael Tarleton. Voting for the raise were commissioners Tom Albro, Rob Holland, and Bill Bryant.

You can be outraged (or not) by the Yoshitani raise, occurring as it does while states and cities here in Washington and across the country are cutting worker pay and such services as health care support for low-income families and support for pre-school and kindergarten.  (By the way, the Port is still collecting general property taxes averaging about $80 per household per year to subsidize itself, reports Lindblom.)

There's another disturbing context: The growing pay gap between a privileged CEO and upper management class and America’s workers, along with an increasing share of the nation’s wealth held by the very rich and super rich. In this trend, it seems like something’s gone wrong.  There’s a feeling that our belief in fairness and equal opportunity may no longer match America’s reality.

Might electeds such as Port Commissioners just say no? When folks see 9 percent raises at the top and less than half that for anyone else, alarm bells should ring. What are we getting for treating public-sector CEOs like royalty? Do the port commissioners expect Yoshitani to leave if he doesn’t get a raise? (Apparently he does plan to leave the Port in 2013-14, according to Commissioner Tarleton.) Would such a raise really change his mind? And might not his task be easier if he didn't take such a well-publicized and sure-to-be-criticized raise?  Yoshitani, heeding his political antennae better, turned down a 4 percent raise last summer.

Looking ahead, there's another opportunity for local leaders to to cold-turkey on such outsized salaries. Who believes the Seattle School Board would not get qualified, even inspirational, candidates to replace Maria Goodloe-Johnson for $100,000 less than her current pay of $264,000?  After all, that’s around $100,000 more than the governor earns.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Dick Lilly

Dick Lilly

Dick Lilly is a former Seattle Times reporter who covered Seattle neighborhoods, City Hall and public schools during 14-years with the paper.