News

Council to ask voters for a raise

Council member pay could go from $600 to $1,000 a month, still sub-minimum wage

City Council members voted Tuesday to trim down a proposed raise in pay for themselves, expressing fear that residents wouldn't approve of a boost that would bring it up to minimum wage.

At the April 22 meeting, the council decided to have city staff draft a measure for the November ballot to raise council member pay from $600 a month to $1,000 a month -- not the previously proposed $1,200 -- effective January 2015. For the first time, council pay would rise annually to reflect rising costs of living, tied either to the consumer price index or city employee cost of living adjustments, whichever is lower. Because of a 1984 ballot measure, the city's charter prevents council members from approving a raise themselves, so the city's voters must decide.

Council members want what is effectively a decrease in pay compared to years past. 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.

Though they will leave the council before the raise goes into effect, members Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant joined John Inks (who will remain) in blocking a higher raise for the council, including the three new council members to be elected in November. Siegel was the swing vote in the compromise amount of $1,000 a month (a raise to $800 was also discussed.)

Citing concerns that those who work regular jobs can not afford to be on the City Council, council members had previously said they want a pay raise to make the job attractive to a wider range of candidates. In November of last year, council members voted 6-1 to begin drafting the raise, which council member John Inks opposed.

"A group visiting us from Italy a few years ago asked how much we were paid and I told them — they were shocked," said Bryant last November, advocating for the pay raise that she ended up wanting to trim down. "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."

Council members have complained that they are paid less than minimum wage, but the raise to $1,000 a month would mean a jump from $5 an hour to $8.33 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.

Council pay would still be less than the state's minimum wage, which increases to $9 an hour in July and $10 an hour in 2016. Council pay would have been $10 an hour at $1,200 a month.

Council members cited the fact that voters rejected a tripling of council pay to $1,500 a month in 2006 by a 4-percent margin, though there was no campaign to explain why it was needed. Resident Don Letcher pointed to an editorial in the Daily Post questioning why the council deserved a "doubling" of their pay, a sound bite some members may want to avoid. Council candidate Jim Neal also spoke against the raise, saying that "asking for a 100 percent increase, I think, is unconscionable."

"We didn't run for City Council because of the pay," said council member John McAlister. "I'm not trying to make money, I'm just trying to cover my costs. Look at what we do, look at the time we put into it before you say you don't deserve this."

Bryant said she had "lost a lot of money" by giving up work as a technical writer to focus on being a council member, but said another $600 a month "would not make a difference for someone who absolutely needed to have the income."

Mayor Chris Clark disagreed.

"It does give someone a little more ability (to be on council) if they wanted to have some sort of part-time position or have a spouse with another income stream," Clark said. "It does make it a little more doable."

The lack of compensation may be why 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 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. Rising housing costs have been blamed on an avalanche of job growth and limited housing growth, reflective of a land-use pattern that most of the council members have supported over the years.

Without voter approval of a raise, council members would have to wait until the city's population doubles to 150,000 to see a raise to $700 a month. That's because voters in 1984 tied raises to a state standard for charter cities.

"To have to wait for city to get to 150,000 people before we receive any change in pay, I think is unreasonable," McAlister said.

When it comes to calculating pay per hour, it varies from member to member and week to week. McAlister says he works as many as 35 hours a week, while member Mike Kasperzak said it as high as 25 hours and Inks said he ranges between 30 and 60 hours a 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 negotiating with Google for leases on city land to reining in relentless real estate development and figuring out how to pay for core city services like police, the library and parks.

"I support increasing the salaries of City Council members," said Michael Fischetti, as he spoke in favor of increasing the city's minimum wage for all employees within city limits at the start of the meeting, noting that even the city's Day Worker Center members are paid between $12 and $17 an hour. "I think you are working very hard to try to negotiate the 21st century."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 23, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I would like to see a $1,500 salary but $1,000 is at least on the way. Being on the City Council is a very demanding job with almost zero perks and a constant barrage from the public, no matter which way they vote on an issue! Many more qualified people would be able to run for office if the pay for making such huge time commitments and weighty decisions if the salary were more than a stipend. Count me as a supporter!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm

While I have often disagreed with the positions of City Council members, I acknowledge that they work very hard at a difficult job.

I,for one, would like to see them paid in relation to their responsibility.

They set policy and are as valuable as many of the city executives.

I expect top performance and am willing to pay for it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim Cochran
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I support the move to $1000 a month, or even $1200.
People are not running for the city council for the money, but it is nice to have some money coming in along with the perks that go with the job. The amount of time the council job takes is largely a matter of the members interest and the time available to do the work. A retired person is likely to spend more time attending committee meetings and talking with residents because that is what they like to do.
When I was on the council two members had a regular job and two of us worked in our own business. You can be a council member and work at a paying job.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by nnnnope
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I see nobody stepping down because of this pay and I see no shortage of people wanting the positions in spite of the pay. Its not a paying position and is in no way tied to performance.
When I vote can I vote "HELL No!!"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ron Voss
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I'd like to see some with lower income on the Council, and I'd like them to work full time on the Council, so they would need to quit their jobs, so they would need something closer to minimum wage, so I'm in favor of a raise.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bex
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 23, 2014 at 6:28 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 Local Observer
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I periodically work with members of the Council, and am aware of the tremendous commitment they make to the City. Whether or not you agree with their politics, even at $1,000 a month they are a bargain. For those who disrespect any politician, any amount is too much, but for those without the blind dislike and distrust, hopefully this is a reasonable request.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roman
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2014 at 7:05 pm

When you pay city council members $600 a month to administer an almost one quarter of a billion dollar ($241,000,000+) budget, what do you expect? We have exactly what we pay for.
If you had $241,000,000+, that's 241 million dollars, A YEAR to invest would you feel comfortable having someone who makes less than minimum wage administer it for you?
Let's begin to fix Mountain Views mess from the bottom up and establish a competitive compensation program so that highly qualified citizens who listen to the people can and will want to run for these important offices that affect every person and business in Mountain View.
It appears that right now special interest groups are exerting a lot more influence than should be allowed.
Perhaps with reasonable but competitive salaries and a realistic and balanced long range plan of controlled growth that could be developed and implemented by elected full time professionals we could move confidently into a future that makes sense.
We cannot change the past but we can take charge now and with vision change the future.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Yeah! Make google pay for it those evil greedy corporate criminals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:04 am

What benefits and other "perks" are giving to City Council memers?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

No problem raising the council members' pay. Dismiss the city manager and divide his salary among them. But in return they'd actually need to do their jobs... which is representing the interests of the citizens and not those of city staff.
Currently, their positions seem to consist of skimming through an avalanche of staff reports and then applying the ceremonial 'OK' rubber stamp to their recommendations. Even minimum wage is too much for that job performance.


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