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.