Raise? Sure, I'll Take a Raise!
By Wells Dunbar,
12:01AM, Thu. Nov. 16, 2006
They'll breeze through it in time for their press conference, or they'll save it for after lunch, but City Council's set to tackle the topic of pay raises today. Councilmember pay was tacked on the agenda as a late addendum, probably in order to lob some softballs Statesman way. Thing is, they didn't need to– it's not that bad an idea.
The subject first arose in their October 5 meeting. Then-sponsor Brewster McCracken had, somewhat awkwardly, positioned the topic as one for the Ethics Review Commission, imploring them to "make determinations... relating to City Council reporting standards, outside employment, benefits, compensation and conflicts standards." It took Lee Leffingwell to point out the obvious – that, as Council appointees, any ERC decision would, however unintentionally, carry their imprimatur. "At worst, I think it creates at least a perception of a conflict of interest," Leffingwell said, noting that the ERC didn't even have "any purview" over the subject.
Indeed, the CW governing the subject seems to be that Council doesn't need anyone to hold their hand. As Leffingwell noted back in October, "we haven't had one for seven or eight years, and I think a salary increase based on retroactive (cost of living increases) would be very much in order."
Gloria Aguilera, aide to sponsor Betty Dunkerley, extrapolates. “Right now they are considering a cost of living adjustment for those years since their last pay raise in 2000 when non-civil service employees received one,” Aguilera writes in an email. “Our current proposal tracks exactly what non-civil service employees received since our last pay raise.” All in all, the raise is a respectable 22% bump, putting around $17K more in councilmember's pockets each year. (The mayor would stand to make more.) A goodly amount, high for Texas (as are our police salaries, and, well, a bunch of other jobs), and and the moderate-to-high range nationally. (Of course, now we're contractually obliged to mention Toby Futrell's $232,500 City Manager salary. Ol' Wilby's Balling!)
But not an unheard of, or unearned, wage. With Mike Martinez famously leaving the fire department (and with it, his pension), and McCracken retiring his private law practice, it's flatly obvious Council is a full time position. Sheryl Cole and Jennifer Kim have also given up their full time jobs, according to Aguilera. “When they run for Council, most people actually think they can work and do their job too, but it is a full time job just dealing with constituent issues, attending events, getting ready for a Council meeting usually with over a 100 items on it and responding to emails and phone calls,” she writes.
No, we've never had any real objections to raising pay – just the way it was attempted before. McCracken's original motion, aside from needlessly belaboring the ERC with a "budget amendment" process, just wasn't necessary. If you feel you deserve a raise, then make the case – don't pass the buck.