In the same meeting in which the Bethel City Council fired its city manager, it voted to introduce a measure to pay council members, provided Bethel voters approve. The ordinance, if passed, would pay council members for their service, but not before a public vote. The compensation would include $100 for every regular city council meeting attended, $25 for every special city council meeting, and in addition, water and sewer subsidies that could total several hundred dollars a month. The vote was split 5 to 2, with council members Leif Albertson and Mitchell Forbes voting against.
Council member Fritz Charles introduced the ordinance, citing examples of comparable municipalities in Alaska. He said, “I asked every one of those other people from surrounding villages up north, Kotzebue, Nome, Barrow, they all said they all got paid.”
Bethel resident Alyssa Gustafson brought research during People to Be Heard that backed up council member Charles’ claim. However, those cities compensate their city council members in the $50 a month range.
Council member Carole Jung-Jordan shared why she thought paying council members was a good idea.
“We do spend a lot of time away from our families and it would just be nice, just a little something. Maybe in the future it’ll entice others to run that wouldn’t normally run.”
Council member Leif Albertson stood completely opposed to the compensation ordinance. Council member Perry Barr thought the amount was too much. Council member Mitchell Forbes pointed out the timing: “We are right in the middle of our budget process, and this council is looking down to every line item in our city budget ways to cut back spending.”
Then, Vice-Mayor Raymone "Thor" Williams suggested a compromise: “Give this back to the people to vote on. Let them decide yay or nay so that they can have their voice heard as our employers.”
The ordinance was revised to delay the effective start date until after an advisory vote in the regular election this October. An advisory vote means that city council can override the public’s vote. City council will decide whether to pass Ordinance 19-05 at the next city council meeting on May 14.