News

Council may seek voters' OK of pay raise

Council pay raise may influence outcome of MV's housing crisis

With major concerns looming that only the city's relatively wealthy residents can afford to be on the City Council, council members say they want a pay raise to make the job attractive to a wider range of candidates.

On Tuesday the council is set to decide whether to place a measure on the November ballot to raise council member pay from $600 a month to $1,200 a month, effective January 2015. The city's charter prevents council members from approving a raise themselves, so the city's residents must decide.

Council members have complained that they are paid less than minimum wage, but the raise would mean a jump from $5 an hour to $10 an hour, based on an average of 30 hours of work per week. That's how much work council members Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga and Chris Clark told the Voice that they do in a typical month.

In November of last year, council members voted 6-1 to begin drafting the raise, with council member John Inks opposed.

Whether such a raise would open the council to anyone but the relatively wealthy remains to be seen.

Renters make up the majority of the city's population (58 percent in 2010) but have not been reflected in the council's makeup for many years. Mountain View's City Council is currently composed of a business executive (Mayor Chris Clark), two retired business executives (John Inks and Jac Siegel), two members supported by their husbands (Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant) and two business owners (John McAlister and Mike Kasperzak). All of them are homeowners, relatively insulated from the effects of the current housing crisis and skyrocketing rents caused by an avalanche of job growth and limited housing growth, reflective of a land-use pattern that most of the members have supported.

When it comes to calculating pay per hour, it varies from member to member and week to week. Council members can easily spend 10 hours a week in meetings alone, plus many more at events, talking to residents and city staff members and examining city staff reports before making decisions that have wide-ranging impacts on the city, from land use decisions that affect housing prices to core city services like police, library services and parks.

In 2006 -- with no campaign raising awareness about why it was needed -- a proposed council pay raise to $1,500 a month was narrowly blocked by the city's voters, lacking about 700 votes it would have needed to get a simple majority. It would have tripled council pay at the time, which was $500 a month.

Under this year's proposal, the pay raise would be automatically raised every year by no more than 5 percent, as it would be tied to the Bay Area Consumer Price Index, which is historically higher than the national CPI.

If adjusted for inflation, Mountain View's 1968 council pay of $250 a month would be $1,697 today; the $500 a month that voters approved in 1984 would be $1,137, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics online calculator.

In November there will also be a council election for three vacant seats -- Siegel, Bryant and Abe-Koga will step down after eight years.

The City Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, on the second floor of City Hall at 500 Castro Street.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really :-
a resident of Bailey Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Your joking right? Ask your developer friends, or do they not like to make it look that direct?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Please.. the reason only "relatively wealthy" people can get on the city council is because it takes money to get elected.

Once you're on the council the different between $600 and $1200 isn't going to make or break anyone.

How much did each council member spend to win their seat? That's the number we should be paying attention to.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

Mountain View's City Council candidates have spent relatively small sums of money on their campaigns. Former members Tom Means and Greg Perry liked to talk about being elected on less than $5,000.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Yeah, let's put this one to vote, again.

...snipped...

"Renters make up the majority of the city's population (58 percent in 2010) but have not been reflected in the council's makeup for many years."


~~~~~ Uh, it's not like this current city council has done Mountain View home owners any favors.


~~~~~

"All of them are homeowners, relatively insulated from the effects of the current housing crisis and skyrocketing rents caused by an avalanche of job growth and limited housing growth, reflective of a land-use pattern that most of the members have supported."


~~~~~ "relatively insulated" is a very important term in the above sentence.

Homeowners (aka property tax payers) purchased their homes with certain zoning in place, and that zoning was a part of a contract (of sorts) with the city. The homeowners were willing to invest their life savings in an area that was zoned a particular way because, in part, the zoning in place provided a protection - of sorts - for the homeowners, the protection being that purchasing a home in an area zoned "X" meant the homeowner knew what anything built in that neighborhood would fall into parameters defined by the "X" zoning code. What's going on now (and has been going on for awhile now) is city council has been re-zoning and in many cases up-zoning areas which will result in a dramatic and most likely, negative, impact to homeowners in these re/up-zoned neighborhoods.

Homeowners have every right to be frustrated and/or angry, when their city council seems to have no problem violating the implicit (zoning) contract it has with current homeowners, breaching this contract in order to encourage high-density "infill" development in certain areas of the city. On top of that, when these frustrated homeowners - who have their life savings invested in their home - dare to speak up, speak out, or plead for restraint from our city council regarding these zoning changes...these residents are are often chastised and referred to as "selfish" and/or "nimbys", seemingly in an effort to get these righteously aggrieved homeowners to sit down, shut up and let the city council wantonly breach their implicit zoning contract with these homeowners..."for the greater good".

Yeah, it's all butterflies and rainbows until it's your life savings along with your quality of life that is being deliberately dismantled by city council, along with a big help from the city manager and city staff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by notacandidate
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:31 pm

It's easy to get on the council. Here are the steps:

1. Run for city council once. Make sure your signs get put up with your name.
2. Do not appear crazy. (You know who I'm talking about.)
3. You will lose the first election, but don't fret.
4. Run again.
5. You will now have a subtle name recognition advantage over any first time candidates, so you will win.

Why does this work? Because few run...
a) Because it is not a coveted job.
b) Some people that may like to do it are too busy with the excitement of their careers (they already have way too much money to ever spend, but do not dare to get off the gerbil wheel).
c) Some people would like to do it, but cannot financially afford to. Especially on $600/mo!

It's also a very difficult job to be effective. The city staff will drown you in presentations, data and threaten you with potential legal action from residents and developers. If you don't share basic viewpoints with 2-3 other council members, then they will just vote against your position and nothing is accomplished.

I think if we bring compensation up to similar levels for bay area cities, then that will open up the candidate pool. More choice should give us higher quality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm

The difference between $600 and $1200 is not significant enough to have any effect. If we want any noticeable change, we'd need to make the council position a full time job with real duties and a reasonable civil service wage. We could recoup the cost by replacing the city manager and some of his henchmen with the elected representatives.
The pattern Mr.(or Ms.)"notacandidate" has identified is spot on! City council elections are pretty much of a joke: run once, don't win. Run again, elected. But the position is pretty much honorary anyway... The nonelected city staff is bold enough to disregard council actions at will.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@MVRESIDENT67 -- You're points are spot on in my opinion!

@NOTACANDIDATE -- It's not as easy as you might think! If you are trying to really accomplish change, special interests and even some in the media will try to portray you as crazy, alarmist or out-of touch in order to maintain the status quo. One of the reasons that I am writing so many of my own articles in the online version of the voice is so that people can become familiar with my positions, decide whether or not they agree with me, and then vote accordingly based on first hand information. I also invite people who disagree with me to meet me face to face to discuss their concerns, but so far no one has taken me up on that offer. I put my chances of being elected this year at about 25% right now, but I am working very hard on my campaign in order to dramatically improve those odds.

I am not wealthy by any means. I rent, I own a car that is 14 years old, and I make less than $100,000 a year. After taxes it's less than $67,000/yr.

With all that said, I am opposed to the increase in salary for the City Council whether I am on it or not. If I am elected I will vote against any increases until I lose an election or am termed out. I think that serving as Mayor or a Council Member is just that, a service and that it should be done based on one's desire to serve the residents and businesses rather than to make money, otherwise you wind up with a situation such as the one that occurred in Bell, California.

I also do not understand why the Council is wasting time with this, when there are far more important issues facing the city.


Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link (Campaign Website)
info@electneal.org



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Mountain View is a far better managed then most cities and every city council has moments. City of Bell can be a case study on bad government, which I can say before the whole mess they leashed upon the world. Haven't ever heard of Bell, California, had to Google what amounts to a Southern California suburb.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Bell? Palo Alto is right next door and a good example of failed leadership. Like the old joke....

A. Send in the Clowns

Q. How does Palo Alto run a city council/school board meeting?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 21, 2014 at 7:46 pm

If a person is working two jobs to make ends meet, s/he would have to give up one of those jobs to serve adequately on the Council. If the Council pay is less than both jobs, it's not worth it.

To me that's the scenario that should be used to set the Council pay scale.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cut Back On Hours
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 21, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Cut Back On The Hours And Skip The Pay.

Paying A Salary Only Makes It A Political Job Latter For The Democratic Party's Select Few In Its Politicians-In-Training Program.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 21, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Don't they get the benefits otherwise reserved for full-time city employees? And they qualify to join other boards and commissions which pay money. But the biggest bonus is access to other jobs in the public sector or in the private sector.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Funny
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm

It's funny that the same type of person that would rail against politicians for being paid for their work (Derp! City Council is all plush! Liberal college boys! Derp!") are the same types that rail against any attempt to curb CEO pay. ("Derp. We need the best CEO's so they need to be paid tens of millions of dollars...DERP!")

It seems that not providing a modicum of compensation to city council is limiting the type of candidates that can take the position. Not very democratic if you ask me...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm

@MVResident67 -
"Homeowners (aka property tax payers)..."

Hello? Renters are property taxpayers just like homeowners. Every rental property (with the exception of publicly-owned units, which are an extremely small share of the rental stock) is assessed property tax just like an owner-occupied residence. The owner of that property pays property taxes, and passes that cost along to the tenant, just like they pass along the cost of maintenance, the mortgage, or any other expense. It's a basic fact of real estate. If you don't believe that, you are either too ignorant or too blinded by your own wild opinions. Given the rest of your rant above, I'd guess the latter. And the fact that Jim Neal thinks your points are "spot on" is further confirmation of how far off you are.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Funny
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2014 at 10:23 pm

I've got nothing against renters...the problem is that a lot of these rental units are sitting on land that has not been assessed to current market values for decades. Thank you prop 13! It was intended so that fixed income senior citizens wouldn't get kicked out of their houses with the increased tax burden. Unfortunately, this has been taken advantage of by commercial real estate holders (businesses, apartment buildings and even some single family homes!) These businesses discovered that if they retain legal title to the property and "lease" it out to a management company, they could get a lot more $ out of their property than simply selling it and moving on.
What is the problem? Well, we have a very high # of absentee landlords...that's not great for the community.

Worse, even though the property isn't really being operated by the same people that originally purchased it, the taxes collected are incredibly low compared to the *homeowners* who, for the most part, came in more recently and are paying taxes at a much higher assessed value.

It's not the renters fault, but the situation sucks.

Raising the councilpersons compensation to a higher level will help bring in people that cannot currently afford to take the position. I think we need those people to protect our city. The current crowd is just a little too comfortable....

Jim--if nobody is willing to meet with you to talk, do you really think you stand a chance of getting elected??? You might want to sit down and take a long think about *why* nobody is willing to meet with you and maybe make some changes in how you communicate with the community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:11 am

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@Funny -- I said nobody who DISAGREES with me is willing to meet. Probably because they'd rather remain anonymous so they can use pseudonyms, insult me and attribute quotes to me that I never said.


Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link (Campaign Website)
info@electneal.org


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:16 am

OMV Resident, a resident of Old Mountain View:



"Hello? Renters are property taxpayers just like homeowners."

~~~~~~~~~~

Doh! My Bad.

Uh huh.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca W.
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm

How about paying city council members a minimum wage? They can vote in council on what they feel they and other hardworking Mountain View residents and workers deserve.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joseph Blough
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Candidates for council that come across as abrasive or arrogant, even if only a bit and even if they truly are not, have very little appeal to voters. The "what you see is what you get" approach, while admirable and honest, is not necessarily the best. You have to be a politician...weird, eh?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peachy
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 23, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Good luck with that. This is one voter who will vote NO to a pay raise.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Bex
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I'm very surprised at the current pay of council members. I consider this a simple matter of respect. I would never expect someone to work on my behalf for free (or near free). I would strongly support a raise to $1500 a month! It is still no more than a stipend and would not make a difference in many peoples decision to run, but the council should be compensated for the time they put into the job. I'm also very surprised that an editorial would come out against such a small raise, especially in comparison to other city employees and the budget of the city. Count me as a "YES" vote!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mom
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I'd be shocked if that passed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Scott
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Council members put in about 30 hrs/week, so this "raise" might just bring them up to minimum wage!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Funny how some people think $5000 is a small amount of money.

$5000 for a single election. One I'm told I should expect to lose the first time around, possibly the second.

That's $5000 times 2 or 3. I am positive a majority of the city's residents don't have a spare $10-$15K laying around to spend on getting elected to the city council.

This will not expand the candidates pool.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 4:50 pm

MV City Council members should definitely get a big pay raise for two good reasons:
1) It would allow them to work less elsewhere in order to earn a living (if they must), thereby giving them more adequate amounts of time to very thoroughly study and consider everything brought before them.
2) With enough pay, anyone could be a city council member. Then we might actually get a real working class stiff in there for a change, instead of only those that are wealthy or supported by other than a job they are doing.

And, very important: The number of construction project brought before the council needs to be reduced or at least spread out more over time. Then each council member could spend more time on each project and do things much more carefully. And the big plus would be that the public could take more part.

Let's end all these afternoon council meetings and study sessions that working people cannot much attend. Let's hold the number of study sessions and council meetings for one of each per month. That would help to keep the officials from out pacing our ability to keep up with our own town!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by beachmaster
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:52 pm

pay them hourly, clock in clock out, let's see if they really put in 30hrs. a week. If they work hard give em a suitable wage.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Sneak peek: Bradley's Fine Diner in Menlo Park
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,373 views

Marriage Underachievers
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,668 views

Best High Dives to Watch the Game
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,259 views