News

Council: Pay raises needed to attract candidates

Council members said Tuesday said that they spend 30 hours a week doing a job that pays only $600 a month -- amounting to $5 an hour -- limiting the position to those lucky enough to not need regular jobs.

"The local government we have is really flawed," said council member Ronit Bryant. Council members said they agreed with her comments. Because of low pay, a position on the council is largely limited to those who are retired, supported by a spouse or independently wealthy.

"A group visiting us from Italy a few years ago asked how much we were paid and I told them -- they were shocked," Bryant said. "They said, 'How do you get anyone who doesn't either have money or is retired to run for City Council?' I said that's a very good question -- my husband supports me."

After failing in 2006, council members said Tuesday that they are interested in asking voters again for a raise, voting 6-1 -- with Mayor Inks opposed -- to have the council's procedures committee study the possibility. Council members can't approve a raise themselves, as they are bound by a city law that says "The City Council has no power to increase its salary by ordinance, resolution or motion."

Council member Jac Siegel said that given the political climate and people's views of politicians, "if we did anything it should be small increase with an inflationary increase. Other than than that, we're not going to be able to pass anything."

Several other members said a small increase in pay of only $100 to $200 would not be worth the trouble.

"It's less about the money and more about being able to attract a diverse array of candidates," said Vice Mayor Chris Clark, who joked that his salary on council pays his monthly dry cleaning bill, with a "little left over."

"The only reason I'm able to do this is because I have an extremely flexible employer," said Clark, an executive at Mountain View-based Green Dot and the only regularly employed member of the council.

Voters narrowly rejected the council's request for a pay raise from $500 to $1,500 in 2006, which would have taken effect in 2009. Council member Mike Kasperzak, who pushed for the raise in 2006, noted that "there was no campaign" to get voters to support it. It failed by a 4-percent margin.

In 2006, council members noted that the pay raise wasn't necessarily for them, as it would have been applied in 2009. Some members said Tuesday that such a strategy would be needed again.

Placing a measure on next year's November general election ballot would cost $67,000.

A survey of City Council salaries in nearby cities found that the cities of Palo Alto and Campbell pay council members similarly to Mountain View. Paying half of Mountain View's salary or less are Los Altos, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, Los Gatos and Los Altos Hills.

Paying council members more per month are Cupertino ($730.24), Sunnyvale ($1,981.96), Santa Clara ($811.69), Milpitas ($861.30), Gilroy ($729) and San Jose ($10,583).

Most also pay mayors a bonus -- Mountain View pays $700 a month to its mayor-- along with medical and dental benefits for all members, as does Mountain View.

Bryant said City Council pay is a regional issue, and may require a regional discussion.

"The conversation we should have is, 'Where are we going?'" Bryant said. "'What is the future of local government?' If you want any resident of Mountain View to give 30 hours a week to the public, how are you going to be compensating him?"

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I strongly believe in fair compensation. City Council members are executives of a $100 million organization and should be compensated accordingly. I want the best for Mountain View. We expect a discount from market rates due to the citizen volunteer aspect of the job. However, $5 an hours is an insult.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Hmm, lets get rid of the council and have elections on all the issues by the residents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

If we want our representatives to better represent our interests (those of people who are not independently wealthy or retired yet, etc.), then let's vote for really improving this amount of pay to the MV City Council. If $1500.00/mo. almost passed last time, let's put $1400.00 on the ballot and be sure to get the vote out to make sure it passes. This is very important to attract good candidates! What becomes of MV in the future rides on this!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Slater
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm

If you are in it for the money, you are in it for the wrong reason. I am well aware that we don't pay our City Council a "living wage" for their time, but that is not why you run for office. This topic comes up every so often, and thankfully goes away. For the council to even broach this subject brings into suspect their motivation to hold office.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cost of Campaigning
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

It can also cost $20K to run a low-end campaign for office. If, as is often the case, the public doesn't want to see candidates accept contributions from developers and other interest groups, the $20K is another big financial nut that candidates need to fund (whether they win or lose).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

They shouldn't get paid a penny if you ask me.

We should want people who are willing to server because they want to be involved.

After all we have a city manager. If you want to get paid well you should apply for his job.

If you start paying a "competitive" wage you just end up with professional politicians. I'll pass thanks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Charter Club
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Nov 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

The City Charter sets the Council's salary based on state law.
There are 2 options. Get voters to change the charter to set a specific amount like $1500. Or get the state legislature to change the state law which has a salary that hasn't been updated in decades.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sally
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I'm sorry I thought they were talking about giving pay raises to the employees not themselves, greedy as always.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sceptic
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Wait a minute here.

They do not JUST get paid a salary. What EXACTLY are the other benefits. I heard they get free medical care for life. Is that true?
That's maybe $15 thousand a year for life ????? Lets say they are 50 and live another 30 years. 30 times 15 is 450 thousand.

Are we really paying 450 thousand to each of these "poor" folk even if they do not get relected after a few years of incompetence?????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I also believe Council members should be paid a fair salary. What is fair? That's the hard question to answer, especially given the wide range of salaries quoted in the story. I agree that the benefits (e.g., health insurance) are part of the pay package and should be included when pay is discussed but health insurance would not be a benefit for me--I already have Medicare and health insurance from my former employer--and I suspect that's true of most or all other potential candidates. If and when a new salary is set, it should be automatically adjusted for inflation from then on.

The time Council members spend is mainly at night, I think, like the meetings, and need not prevent holding a full time job outside the Council. But I'm sure Chris Clark would tell you that adding 30 hours a week to a full time job is tough! No doubt that's the reason he's the only Council member with a full time job.

Increasing the Council members' salaries is not really going to help get people with full time jobs, or people who need the income, on the Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mari posa
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm

we need the residents of mountain view to vote on the issues. who needs a council?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim Cochran
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm

A living wage? You have to remember that the council job is part-time employment with all expenses paid. You also must include the value of the medical insurance provided, food, computer, reimbursement for travel and other council related activities.
Back in 2006 the proposal was that salaries were to be increased from $500 per month to $1500 a month. Some of us thought that that was too big a jump. At that time when you took the $500 in the 1980's and increased by the cost of living index, you came up with about $1000 per month for equivalent salary. The sponsors of the salary ballot were not satisfied with this number and would not change. The result was ballot failure. Let's try again using the CPI to fix the dollar number.
Council candidates are not usually enticed by the financial aspects of the job. They usually do it because they want to be in a job where they can make a difference in our community. If we treat them fairly I think we will still get good candidates. We do not need to pay them a "living wage".
A former council member.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I'm saying that if we want people who can better represent us, a mere $1400 or so a month makes the city council possible for more people to participate in as members of it. Not everyone can work full time in addition to the long hours demanded by city council as does the Vice Mayor. Do we want only overworked people with little time to study the issues, or perhaps only rich people to run the show in MV? If so, they will not understand the needs of us, the not rich, as well as someone who is also not rich! They will better serve the huge developers as they do now. We need to change this with widening the pool of candidates we get to choice from next November. Good ones who will really serve the people are hard to find. I know a few who would really reflect what we want but have decided not to run because they cannot afford the cost of running or the decades old low pay rate. We can't afford that. We must raise the pay to help ourselves to better representation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm

According to this article, San Jose should have a great city council


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm

How hard is the job anyway?
Just say yes to any developer that comes into town.
Ignore traffic mitigation and the neighborhoods.
Rubber stamp "staff" reports.
Spend hours and hours arguing about nothing and then take votes after everyone has gone home?
Ignoring citizen inputs and concerns?
Seems like they should be doing it for free.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob Geise
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm

In response to the cynics who recommend letting "the citizens" vote on all decisions:

1. How many elections would that entail? ... at what cost?

2. Have you a sense of the idea of "pooled ignorance?"

Good, independent, smart people have made this City what it is today. To continue to attract such talent to our local government, the pay/benefits may not be the only answer, but certainly enter into the equation. $1,400 is a modest number that might attract better talent than a few who now grace our council chambers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Orin Laney
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Agreed that city council members should not be in it for the money, but they shouldn't be in it for the poverty either. Pay them at least state minimum wage plus $1 per hour.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

The Council members should not be paid. This is a Civic privilege. In the town where I spent most of my life, the members were not paid and the town was,and is, considered one of the best in the East.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sandi
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 21, 2013 at 8:32 am

If you want a living wage go to the City of Bell;
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

Most council members receive generous benefits. As noted by others, if you only want seniors, retired or wealthy individuals to sit on council, then keep the pay low and you will get low quality individuals who are willing to work for free. They will be bought off by special interest groups in order to pay for campaigns. If you want FT highly skilled workers like Chris Clark to run, then you need to increase the compensation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

Is the politcal insider saying that our present council - which has low pay - is getting bought off by special interests? And they are "low quality" individuals?

A big accusation by a so-called political insider!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The LA Times says that the Mountain View city council's total compensation averages $12,541 per year. Web Link At 30 hours/week with a few weeks off a year, that's about $8.50/hour.

Is Mountain View's ~30 hours a week typical? I'm assuming so below.

If paying a bit more would attract great city council candidates who otherwise couldn't afford to do the job, then it'd be well worth it. It seems like Sunnyvale has tried this. Does Sunnyvale have a noticeably better city council than the cities that pay less? Does Sunnyvale in practice have council members who otherwise couldn't take the job? I'm skeptical on both counts, based on the state of Sunnyvale's downtown and the council bio page here: Web Link They look mostly retirement age.

People with the skills to be great city council members could make six figures around here in the private sector. They're probably not going to take a vow of poverty. I don't think we're going to attract someone who needs the money unless we pay at least 10X what we do today. Based on state norms and the previous vote, it's clear that will never happen. I don't think a more minor pay raise would accomplish anything. And the current salary might function as a reminder of what they are asking others to live on. "Mayor Inks questioned the assertion that $8.50 an hour was not enough to live on. He said a union contractor shouldn't be required, as it might go against 'what's the best value for the city' and be an irresponsible use of taxpayer money." Web Link I don't see anything indicating the other council members disagreed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Give them minimum wage and not a penny more. Cut the health benefits entirely, let them buy their own insurance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gus
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Let them all leave. They've over extended their stay. They've done nothing but ruin Mtn. View. Kick them all out!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Litsa
a resident of Slater
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

As some posters pointed out, concerning cost of living in Mtn. View. If you don't like it move some where else.

If the city council don't like their pay. Go find a job somewhere else. Welcome to the real world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not like me?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Even at $1,500 a month, the Council would not be in it for the money. In Silicon Valley, it would take a whole lot more than that.

However, remember that we expect the Council to represent us. How many of us in Mtn View are wealthy enough that we don't have to work; how many are supported by their spouse; how many are retired?

If you do not like their decisions, it might be because they don't think like you because they don't have the same lifestyle as you. That does not mean that we can pay them $10K a month, but pay for it like the part time job it is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Your next
a resident of Slater
on Nov 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm

So far, it sounds like to me:
This whole council leaves and the next council will include:

Bob of Slater neighborhood
Otto Maddox of Monta Loma
Sceptic from Old Mountain View
John in Monte Loma
Concerned Citizen of Shoreline
Old Ben in Shoreline
Gus of Martens
Litsa of Slater

Looks like we have a great slate. Can't wait for the next election! Let's see how good a job you can do. But, if you all get elected, I actually will move!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Add me to the 'your next' list of councilmembers! Oh, wait... I already moved away.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by judy
a resident of Castro City
on Nov 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Where's Don Letcher when you need him?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Here's how i'll run. Get developer and public union money in my campaign-slush fund.

Lie to the electorate and tell them how much I feel their pain.

Approve every raise, pension and benefit/ Approve every develop as is.

Waste time at study seesions and council meetings to pretend otherwise.

Then complain about how I'm not getting paid enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2013 at 6:57 pm

If local governments are interested in drawing more full time workers into public service and/or limit the influence of special interests, they should consider looking at public financing of campaigns (tied to a level of petition support) and/or moving more public meetings to non-work hours (evenings/weekends) rather than the weekday mornings/early afternoons where currently many of our region's public meetings and committees currently take place.

Extra pay will not change most full time worker's daytime obligations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Being elected to city council is an honor, not a career. The compensation is adequate to cover incidental expenses one incurs during their term. They also receive generous benefits that make up for not having benefits from a traditional employer.

The most appropriate candidates for council are those with abundant career and life experience. Individuals like this are generally financially secure or can balance their work load between the council and other ventures.

I ran for council when I was unemployed. I had low expenses and lived a frugal lifestyle. I spent less than $1000 on my campaign and still managed to garner nearly 5000 votes in a race against three entrenched incumbents, including one with a huge war chest funded by unions and special interests. The council salary would have been adequate and would allowed me to dedicate my time to best interests of Mountain View residents.

Now that I am wrapped up in a business venture, it's not realistic for me to run for council. Someday though, I will return to the campaign trail and hope to bring some greatly needed common sense to the council.

As for Mr.Clark, if you feel you need greater compensation, I invite your resignation from council. This will give you more time to line your pockets without milking the taxpayers of Mountain View.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I would say about $5,000 a month would be a good start. I also want to give the City Council more control over the government, often they seem to me to be just saying yes or not to want the non elected workers come up with. I want them to have guide the city not just sort of ride along as they do now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Flava Dave
a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Flava Dave is a registered user.

Yes, pay them nothing so only Google stock millionaires and trust fund babies will be able to serve on the city council. Good thinking everyone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

The more I think about this, demanding more money so the council can "attract better qualified candidates" is like a slap in the face to every council member that has ever served....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm

30 hours/week sounds like poor time management. If they didn't waste so much time pretending to debate items at the council meeting, and just voted YES right away we could all get home at a reasonable hour. Might as well just apply the 'APPROVED' rubber stamp to all the staff recommendations and be done with it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sceptic
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

I wrote the author of this article asking about the benefits that the council receives. Of course he did not have the courtesy to reply or try to correct the missing information in this poorly researched article.

And I made a comment about it above for all to read. But nobody has addressed this question. Do they get medical benefits for life ??? This is a payment of more than $450 thousand dollars each. Is not that more than enough pay?




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

@ sceptic - my inside sources tell me that all council members are eligible for FT benefits (health, dental, vision, PERS retirement). Since i am retired on PERS, you need to be age 50 and have 5 years vested to receive a retirement, but it will be based on limited years of work and a small salary. For example, two terms would be 8 years X 2.5% = 20% of $500/month = $100/month. However, my sources tell me that a council member needs 15 years of service to receive lifetime health care benefits. So people like Kasperzack will qualify by running for a 2nd set of 2 council terms to get 16 years. It will be interesting to see if recently termed out members like Pear, Perry, Means and Macias decide to run again after sitting out 2 years and try to qualify for lifetime healthcare benefits paid for by the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

My understanding was two terms and you're good for life. Not totally sure though and I was a council candidate. This is the dirty little secret of the city council.......


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wendy
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2013 at 10:51 pm

As if a would be candidate would say "wow, if only they were offering 900 dollars more, I'd run". Silly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

@ wendy,

"As if a would be candidate would say "wow, if only they were offering 900 dollars more, I'd run". Silly."

Really. How would you know what other people are thinking. Just because something is true for you doesn't mean it's true for someone else. There are things I might not do for $500 but would be willing to do for $900. Incentives matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sceptic
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

So there we have it.

Council members CAN get FREE healthcare for LIFE. But apparently this is a closely kept SECRET.

Why did the MV Voice not have the guts to write about this looting of public funds?


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