Last night, the Mountain View City Council voted to present a 67% pay increase for itself (from $600 to $1000) to the voters in this November's election. To be fair, three members of the current council will be termed out and three new members will take their place, but there is still the question of whether voters will approve it when most people's salaries have been static or slightly increased for the last few years.
I addressed the Council and told them that although it might not seem to be in my own best interest since I intend to be on the Council next year, I am opposed to the increase because I see nothing wrong with the current formula based on population that is being used for Mountain View and many other cities.
I also told them that I have a real problem with the wording of the proposed ballot measure which is:
"Should the City of Mountain View amend Section 503 of the city charter to limit the base salary of Council Members to $1200 per month, with an annual adjustment based on CPI."
I have no idea who came up with that language, but I find it to be incredibly deceptive and a prime example of why people vote down ballot measures proposed by government. The language makes it appear as if the Council is either currently being paid $1200 per month or is being paid more than that so they want to "limit" the pay to that amount.
I suggested that they use the following wording instead:
"Should the City of Mountain View amend Section 503 of the city charter to double the base salary of Council Members to $1200 per month."
I told them that I think they should be very clear about what they are asking the voters to approve, including the sections in attachment 2 of the report presented to City Council where the benefits Council receives were listed as "Benefits afforded to regularly appointed employees". So what the heck does that mean? These should be enumerated and explained so anyone can understand exactly which benefits they get. There is also a section that mentions they get about $500 for a "Development Fund". Again, explain this.
The Council did have some reasoned explanations for requesting the increase:
Council Member Kasperzak said that the purchasing power of the original $500 and now $600 does not go as far as it did in the 1980's when the voters approved the current Council salary structure. He also said that raising the amount of money paid to council members will make more people want to engage in the process and that we are not getting a representative group of people on the Council.
I have to disagree with that argument because I am not rich and yet I am running. I am not doing it for the pay, I am doing it for the same reason that teachers teach and that people join the military, because I care about my community and my city and want to serve them as best I can. Anyone who is enticed into public office because of the amount of money to be made will never be a good servant of the people in my opinion.
Council Member Inks said that the number of committees has grown and the responsibilities have grown since he joined the Council, but that it has no bearing on what Council Members should be paid and is irrelevant to how dedicated he is to the job. He said the ballot measure is a distraction and he agreed with me that the language is misleading.
Council Member Abe-Koga spoke about how people frequently approach her and tell her they want to run to get the same big salary and benefits that she does and she then explains to them what the salary actually is. She also expressed concern that with too high of a salary, people would run for the salary and perhaps not with service in mind.
Council Member McAlister spoke about how Council Members spend their own money to attend meetings with Constituents and to go to committee meetings and that he looks at the salary as a cost-recovery. He also said that the workload for Mountain View Council Members is much higher than that of similarly sized cities and that we should look at that before criticizing them for asking for the increase.
Jack Seigel also mentioned the time spent going to meetings and researching/studying the myriad topics and issues presented to Council. He also suggested that $800 would be a more reasonable number to put on the ballot than $1200.
The first vote though was for the original $1200 and that failed 3-4. Then a second motion was made for an increase to $1000 and that passed 4-3.
Although I understand and even sympathize with many of the arguments made, I am still against the increase, but I sincerely hope that the Council will make it very clear to whoever came up with the wording of the original ballot language, that they need to change it and play it straight with the voters in November!
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link (Campaign Website)