The Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) governing board will decide tonight whether to give Executive Director Joel Horn a merit raise of 5 percent, to recognize "exceptional performance...

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The Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) governing board will decide tonight whether to give Executive Director Joel Horn a merit raise of 5 percent, to recognize “exceptional performance.”

Horn earns a $175,784 annual salary now, so the raise would add $8,789, for a total of $184,573. The actual amount will be higher, because he also would receive whatever cost-of-living increase goes to his staff in 2005.

Board Chairman Tom Weeks said the pay increase looks “pretty likely, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

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One board member, Cindi Laws, thinks the raise is too high. She distributed copies of Horn’s pay resolution in e-mail yesterday and urged monorail supporters to speak out against it.

It’s been a year of peaks and valleys for what’s often been called the city’s largest public-works project.

The agency issued an environmental-impact statement for its 14-mile Green Line in March, a relatively brisk 16 months after voters approved its $1.75 billion price tag in 2002. The Seattle City Council approved the alignment through Ballard, Seattle Center, downtown and West Seattle. Contract talks with a construction team started in September. Most of the 19 station sites are secured, and the monorail is close to final permits for two water crossings, Weeks said.

“It’s very rare there’s a year when an organization meets this many milestones,” he said.

Laws called Horn’s performance good, not exceptional.

The agency has backtracked on overly optimistic promises Horn couldn’t keep, she said. Plans for a partial one-mile opening in December 2007 were scrapped, and another goal of beginning construction in fall 2004 has slipped.

And a big raise doesn’t make sense when the local economy is slow and the SMP will soon lay off workers, she said. Laws said Horn deserves an inflation raise only, or a combined raise capped at 5 percent.

She praised him for keeping staff morale high despite ridicule from the campaign for “Monorail Recall” Initiative 83, which voters rejected last month.

There are 27 SMP staff members making at least $100,000, and average pay for 82 employees was $80,007 as of September. A year ago, they got cost-of-living raises of 2.2 percent.

Horn’s pay is less than Seattle City Light Chief Jorge Carrasco’s at $209,998 but higher than Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske’s at $162,500 or Mayor Greg Nickels’ at $141,649. Joni Earl, chief executive officer at Sound Transit, is paid $177,160, with no raise pending. Project opponent Henry Aronson said Horn’s raise is tiny compared with the up to $32 million the agency spent to study urban design and technical concepts — many of which are not mandatory for the builders — or $2.2 million on advertising.

“To give him another $10,000, for an agency that has wasted as much money as this one, is irrelevant,” Aronson said.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com. Reporter Bob Young contributed to this report.