Utilities Proposed Rate Increase: Outrageous!

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    Did you get a postcard about the proposed increase in our utility rates? You might consider emailing Lisa Herbold – her name was on the postcard. I emailed her, as well as the rest of the City Council. You might want to write, too, regardless of your views. Here’s what I wrote:

    As if living in Seattle isn’t expensive enough already – now the City wants us to pay more for our water, garbage, and recycling. That takes a lot of gall! The head of Seattle Public Utilities, Mami Hara, might be doing a decent job, but why should she be paid so much while we suffer under increasingly onerous bills?

    From the Seattle Times, Oct. 2016:

    “The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a higher pay range for the head of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), allowing her to earn a salary of up to $334,000 per year.

    The pay range for the existing position of SPU director has been $135,400 to $233,550. The new range for the GM/CEO position will be $209,231 to $334,769.”

    The reason/excuse given is that the City wants to attract top talent, but this is out of control.



    Every week.. two trucks drive down my alley.. twice.. then they drive down the street i live on and the street on the other side of the alley.. twice.. add a third truck doing exactly the same thing every other week.

    And we are supposed to believe that this is both cost effective and efficient?



    Yikes! I hope you mention this, JoB, when you email Lisa Herbold and/or the entire City Council.



    I’m confused as to why the three trucks are an issue. One is garbage, one is yard waste, and recycling is every other week. All three can’t go on one truck, so this is necessary – not wasteful.

    What’s not appropriate is the City Council handing big raises to other bureaucrats at our expense. The only time council members pretend to represent taxpayers in their districts is at election time. How about a CEO for SPU with a “talent’ for keeping consumer costs down? Now, wouldn’t that be special…

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by  anonyme.


    But what is her pay currently? I would not approve paying $209,231 if she/he was paid like $175,000 (Which in my mind perfectly adequate and not deserving of a rate increase.) SPU is a public service. They get more holidays, more sick/vacation days than I do, and what says that is worth >$200K/year?



    Per an article in the June 9, 2017 issue of “Crosscut”:
    Head of Seattle Public Utilities Mami Hara earns $278,000; Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, $265,000; City Light Compliance Officer Jim Baggs, $242,000; and City Light Power Management and Strategic Officer Mike Jones, $231,000.
    Oh, and let’s not forget dear old Larry Weis, CEO of City Light, who gave himself a perfect score. From the same article: “When Larry Weis was confirmed as the CEO of Seattle City Light in March 2016, he instantly became the highest paid city employee, earning $340,000 a year, nearly double what Mayor Ed Murray makes and $70,000 more than the next person on the list. He’s also the only department head eligible for a bonus — up to 8 percent or nearly $30,000.”

    For more info, here’s the article: http://crosscut.com/2017/06/seattle-city-light-highest-paid-employee-wants-a-bonus/

    These people have so much gall. They may or may not do a good job, but they’re basically just administrators, unlike cops who put their lives on the line or teachers who help shape our children’s futures. (And many can no longer afford to live in Seattle.)

    P.S. SDOT’s director, the infamous Scott Kubly of Pronto Bike notoriety, started with a salary of a mere $180,000 back in 2014, so who knows what he’s earning now. Kubly, who has the mayor’s full support, was fined $10,000 for ethics violations in 2016. Poor baby!





    they drive down each street twice because apparently wheeling the wheeled collection cans from one side of the street to the other is too difficult.. even when they are wheeling the carts to the front or back of the truck ?????

    and on streets with only one set of houses between the alley and the street each company still collects some garbage in back in the alley and some in front ?????

    And they don’t do it to avoid blocking the street because they are wide enough that they block both the alley and the street.. first going one way and then going the other ?????



    Once last year I was out in the alley when the recycling truck came by and picked up the recycling across the alley, but not mine. I politely reminded them not to forget mine and was told not to worry because they do all the cans on one side of the alley and then come back through and do cans on the other side. I was a little perplexed as our alley isn’t wide enough to be much of a time issue in doing both cans that are right across from each other and the response was just a shrug and “that’s what we’re told to do.”



    We received that postcard at our house and we are floored. The bottom line is this is a 33% rate increase phased in over a six-year period from 2018-2023. The 33% increase is being soft-pedaled as a proposed average annual rate increase of 5.5%. In 2019 the increase is 8.2% and in 2020 9.5%. The explanation as to why this is necessary as excerpted from the card:

    “Seattle Public Utilities’ central purpose is to achieve long-term sustainability and provide excellent service. We do this while striving to keep rates as low as possible and provide the very best value to our customers. SPU’s 2018-2023 Strategic Business Plan Update includes important investments that protect public health, meet regulations, and enhance the city’s natural and built environments.”

    More excerpted from the card:
    Haven’t been involved yet? There’s still time! Attend a council hearing:
    Tuesday, July 11, 9:30am
    Tuesday, July 25, 9:30am
    Tuesday, August 8, 9:30am
    Seattle City Hall, 5th and James

    Watch the hearings online:
    Read SPU’s plan:
    Share your thoughts with Committee Chair Lisa Herbold:



    It takes a lot of gall to want nice things but then get bent out of shape when you have to pay for them.

    As for the complaining about a directors salary range, what do you think it takes to run a utility that provides and maintains some of the most vital infrastructure in a major US city? A position like that demands 24 hours per day/ seven days per week, 365 days per year dedication and responsiveness.

    Perhaps you should look at what you are getting before you decide to bash it. You could also move somewhere else that does not value public health, environmental protection, and sustainability; I hear Flint, MI may be good for that.



    Surly (and what an apt moniker!), I am an avid environmentalist. In fact, I just submitted a strongly worded comment on protecting our national monuments on https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001, and I hope you do, too. I am a member of four environmental organizations, and I personally do my best to protect the planet.
    But you’re making the ol’ causation vs. correlation argument, which doesn’t hold water here. We can have clean water, sustainability, etc. without paying utilities bosses obscenely high salaries. Sure, they deserve good salaries, but do you honestly think paying them more than, say, $200,000 – $220,000 a year will make a difference? And if you think their position demands their attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, well, I’ve got some water from Flint to sell you.



    Yes, the “worker bees” are on call 24/7, 364 a year, but the “head honchos”, they delegate. THAT’S what the big bucks are for?



    Exactly, happywalker!



    Look up what executives of other utilities make and I am sure you will be surprised, most make 1,000,000 more than the executives of SCL and SPU.

    I have worked in public utilities and I assure you, you have no idea how complicated it is to provide what Seattle does.

    There are many reasons trucks go down streets multiple times on different sides, elderly and disabled customers are not able to move cans and the contracts do that or some customers may pay more for the service not to have to drag out their cans. Can delivery, pick-up and swapping is done by a different contractor as well.


    Michael Waldo

    Property taxes going up and up. Utility rates going up and up. And we wonder why normal. working class people cannot afford to live in Seattle.


    Michael Waldo

    I think there are at least 3 property tax increases on the primary ballot. Please vote no on all of them. Yes, they are all for good causes but the people they are supposed to help are the ones who will be hurt by paying higher taxes on their home. Or paying higher rent if they rent.



    Developer impact fees. They made a profit on a great deal on infrastructure, then take the money elsewhere. Our government needs to start representing us, not “them”.



    Came to the forum to ask about this and see there is already a thread. Here is the PDF I am looking at with proposal rate hikes for the next years: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Council/Committees/CRUEDA/Ex-2_Financial-Forecast-Overview-and-2018-23-Baseline.pdf

    See Table I – 2018 -2023 Rate Increases and Typical Single Family Monthly Bill Impacts by Line of Business

    It shows the percentage hikes but it helps to see an example number set – and OUCH for this to be every year?

    Typical SFR Monthly Bill with expected change

    2018 $186.51 + $6.27
    2019 $202.34 + $15.84
    2020 $222.14 + $19.79
    2021 $231.56 + $9.42
    2022 $240.16 + $8.60
    2023 $250.76 + $10.61

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