Does Your City Council Representative Deserve A Raise?

To tell the truth, we don’t know. We can’t know. All the decisions are made out of the public eye. Your City Representative might be fighting for a more transparent local government. Your City Representative might be arguing for lower taxes, or better roads, or common sense, back there in Executive Session, but we don’t know, because local government is secret.

Maybe it’s Operational Security. Maybe it’s gross ignorance. Maybe it’s delusion. How would we know? Their reasons give way to rationales once you shine the light at them.

Maybe it’s corruption. Maybe it’s social climbing.

Have you seen any rational discussion at City Council? Not unless the outcome is foreordained, and then it’s just theater.

A charter amendment to raise the salaries of City Council will be on the ballot this November. From KVIA:

City representatives currently make $29,000. The committee recommended to increase the pay to $45,300. The salary shall be set at the amount equal to the 2017 El Paso County area median household income as established by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The salary change would go into effect on September 1, 2019.

After that, the salary would change based on the median household income established by the HUD.

The committee also recommended to increase the mayor’s salary to $67,950 (150% of the HUD’s median household income).

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 3.13 people per household in El Paso.

Voters will not only decide whether or not to give City Representatives a raise this year. The proposed charter amendment also includes a raise every year, tied to the median household income established by HUD.

The proposed amendment to the City Charter was initially brought to Council by Mark Benitez. You remember him, don’t you? He was instrumental in getting the Quality of Life bonds passed, according to Tripper Goodman.

I’ve said before, I don’t think that City Representatives get paid enough. I think they should make $36k a year, maybe $38k, maybe even $40k. Enough for them to act like it’s a fulltime job, if they want to. But I think that $45.3k a year is too much. And almost $68k a year for the mayor? Forget about it.

And guaranteed automatic raises for perpetuity? Does your job offer that?

Inflated salaries only divorce our City Council from the realities of most of their constituents.

If you think your City Council Representative is doing a good job, make a campaign donation. But don’t vote to give them raises every year.

5 comments

  1. I completely agree that council and the mayor (maybe not this mayor – just the El Paso mayor in general) should be paid more. But here’s where I disagree with your thinking. $43.5K might be enough to live not, but it’s far less than what an experienced, intelligent professional could be paid in the private sector or even in government. And $68K is hardly a bad salary, but it’s also far less than what an executive would make in most other fields.

    That said, at least it’s possible to live a comfortable life on these salaries. But if we don’t pay our elected officials AT LEAST this much, we’ll continue to have trouble recruiting high quality candidates to run for office. I think a big part of why our mayoral candidates last year were so weak was the low, low salary that the mayor is currently paid. As it stands, the only people who want to be mayor are either retired, have financial support from parents or a spouse, have a side job that might prevent them from being focused on being mayor, or are unqualified types that just need a job.

    Now, if someone only cares about becoming as wealthy as possible, politics might not be the best field for them. But, for better or worse, people want to be fairly compensated for their work. And, for better or worse, the market dictates that people with more education and experience require a higher compensation. If we don’t recognize this and adjust salaries, why would highly qualified, working-age people without family support want to run for office?

    1. I understand your reasoning. But a City Council Representative terms out after eight years. If he’s elected mayor, he can serve eight more. Theoretically. In recent history, no City Representative has risen to mayor.

      Sixteen years is not a career. Nor, do I believe, that politics should be a career. And where does a City Representative go after he terms out? To another public office? The transition to the private sector is difficult, because they mostly don’t have skills that transfer to the private sector. You don’t get elected to be Vice President of Marketing at Coca Cola. What future career path does a term on City Council prepare you for? Walmart? Radio Shack?

      You could, of course, get a job consulting for the people you helped out while you were making decisions on, and about, the public dime. And if you’re used to making a middle class income, that option might sway you, but it’s not best for the community.

      Too many people are drawn to politics for power, or the illusion of power. Politics should be about public service. Give them enough to make rent, and eat out twice a week. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to swill the champagne the lobbyists pay for.

  2. That’s a great point you make about the difficulties of charting a career path after serving on City Council. Every once in awhile someone like Beto can make the jump to higher office from council, but there are eight council members and only one congressperson and one mayor. So clearly there’s not room for everyone to move up.

    But I view that as somewhat of a separate issue from salaries. If we pay better salaries, that doesn’t change the fact that there are a limited number of elected official jobs. And that doesn’t change the fact that the skillset you develop as an elected official doesn’t always translate well to other fields. But if we paid higher salaries, we’d at least be opening the door for better people to run. If the quality of people in these offices is high enough, the ones who fail to win higher office could easily find jobs as economic development consultants or government relations managers at companies in El Paso or elsewhere. We can debate whether this is good for the community (and I tend to agree with you that it isn’t), but at least we’d have better elected officials while they’re in office.

    Right now, the only serious candidates for elected office at the City are rich enough that they don’t care about the low salary. So you get retirees, people with family wealth, and others with side jobs. Not that any of these groups are necessarily bad, but you’re leaving out the vast majority of the population. Which is how we ended up with our current mayor. I’d be happy to pay more to get a qualified, intelligent city council and mayor, even if their motives are mostly about power, or the illusion thereof. Right now we have people with the same motives, but mostly lacking in the first two categories.

    Regardless, I hear your point and I respect it. Always great to read your thoughts.

  3. When l see an abundance of incompetence, reckless spending, poorly created legal documents, an increase in secret meetings, and just an overall amount of arrogance from our local government, my first thought is: enormous pay raises for everyone!

  4. These crooks aren’t in it for the salary. They’re in it for what they can steal. Only an honest person deserves an honest wage.

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