Just think if you had the power to give yourself a raise.
Um, wouldn't you give yourself a raise?
Not if you're a politician, apparently. Recently, San Diego City Council members voted to maintain their current salary, which is about $75,000 a year. Members of the body haven't had a raise since 2003 — 11 years.
The Council also held the line on the mayor's salary, which is about $100,000.
The issue normally produces the same arguments whenever it is brought up:
The pro: The city won't be able to attract worthy candidates if it doesn't offer more compensation.
The con: Holding office is a public service, done for the good of the people and not for financial gain.
Some cities take the No. 1 approach and pay well. Los Angeles City Council members make $178,789, the highest in the nation. (But look at how well Los Angeles is run ...)
And some cities take the No. 2 approach and pay pauper's wagers. In San Antonio, City Council members make $1,040 even though some say the job requires full-time effort. That pay equals about $20 a week or 5 cents an hour.
One of the council members, Rey Saldaña, who has a master's degree from Stanford University, has to live with his parents, according to the San Antonio Express-News. He can't augment his pay by getting another job, he told the newspaper. “It's near impossible to find a job that's compatible to both your schedule and your employer's.”
While San Diego's pay is no where near San Antonio's compensation, it's still not enough to buy a house. According to a recent report, it takes a salary of $81,500 to buy a median-priced home in San Diego. Now, throw in a couple of kids into the mix ...
Many city employees, including more than two dozen lifeguards, make more than City Council members.
When former City Council President Tony Young bolted for a job to lead the Red Cross, some argued it was because he was lured by the higher salary, and the city lost a valuable public servant. (He has since left the Red Cross.)
Yet, if one looks at the candidates to file for the upcoming open City Council seats, it's not as if they include a bunch of slackers. One, Sarah Boot, is a federal prosector. Another, Chris Cate, is vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
Under the current system, it would appear likely that the City Council will never get a raise. The last time Council members tried to give themselves a raise was in 2008 and they learned a lesson:
Voters don't like it when the Council gets raises.
They had tried to hike their salaries — under the recommendation of the city's Salary Setting Commission — to $93,485 but later voted against the raise after fierce public outcry and a threatened veto by then Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Ever since then, the Council has not given itself a raise. It hasn't come close.
Now, however, the Council wants to look at ways to get itself out of the salary increase equation. In its vote to maintain salaries, it also asked the City Attorney's office to explore variations in the process to exclude them.
Until then, maybe they should be thankful they don't serve in San Antonio.