Town Square

67% Council Pay Increase Will Be On November Ballot

Original post made by Jim Neal, Old Mountain View, on Apr 23, 2014

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!

Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link (Campaign Website)


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:44 am

Mr. Neal: Well stated as usual, and good for encouraging dialog among us citizens, as are all your comments. On this one I must disagree with you, for the first time, as I am firmly convinced & understand that low pay to council limits who can be on that important panel to represent us. After spending usually approximately $25K in expenses for running for MV City Council, most people are financially spent and must give up trying to be on the council, so we limit those among us who are most similar to ourselves in their income levels, etc. Thus we preclude having the real representation we need.

Instead, let's pay MV City Council members lots more, so that everyone can realistically consider becoming a council member, not just those who are financially well off, or supported by another, or a rare exception such as yourself. You are amazing and I believe you will really represent us should you get the chance.

And, by the way, 67% is a large increase in anyone's pay at any one time, but this is because MV City Council hasn't had any raise since when? The 1950's or there abouts? Let's pay each member $2000 per month to enable everyone a chance to be on the council, and everyone a chance to devote sufficient time to each issue so they better understand them & thereby reduce the number of mistakes they keep making. If they do not have to divide their attention to also earning a living full time plus serving on the council, they can (and I believe, they will) do a better job. Too much at sake to over work them and too much at sake to limit who can serve! And right now we are limiting severely who can be on the council.

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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:53 pm

$2000/mo. would be barely enough to almost live on (adding to a part time job would help). This amount of pay is all about allowing someone to devote the time that should be mandatory for studying what is ahead of the Council. These are important decisions that must be thoroughly studied. With all the study sessions and council meetings it makes a regular full time job a barrier to the time it takes to study sufficiently to avoid over looking ever so important details.

Another approach is to make our City Council slow way down and stop building in such a ridiculous rush! The pace is more than they, or we, should have to keep up with!

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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm

We should, in fact, insist that our City Council slows down, not just for the part played by the council members themselves (to give them more time to study and consider things) but very much for more public involvement to insure better outcomes with all the construction projects. The more minds considering the details, the better thought out it is. Haste makes waste, and ruins things we can't get back.

And who among us everyday working people could possibly attend such early study sessions? They start at 5 PM or even 4 PM! Even City Council sessions at 6:30 PM is too early for most of us. Let's just go with 7 PM as when the EPC meets. And why not limit study sessions to one per month and the same for City Council meetings? Then maybe their low pay wouldn't be so ridiculous. But it still should be higher!