This July, the City Council’s raise takes effect. Passed last September, it is a 70-percent increase at a time of citywide financial challenge: The city projects a $5 million deficit for the fiscal year; the council asks voters to approve and extend sales taxes; and city employees adjust to compensation cuts while bracing for future ones.
In case you want to ask council candidates about this raise — after all, they will be entitled to it if elected — here is what council members said before voting to approve it. (My response follows in parentheses.)
* One member said that the present salary was “woefully inadequate.” (In the staff report provided before the vote, council salary — in Davis and 12 nearby cities with similar population size — was compared, and Davis was fifth-highest. In July, Davis will be the highest, since no other council has changed its salary, although some members in Vacaville and Walnut Creek are voluntarily reducing theirs to participate in citywide austerity measures.)
* Another member said that the present salary meant that “only retired people or people of means are able to serve.” (If this is true, then returning or re-elected members should decline the raise, since by definition they have the requisite time or money.)
* Another member said the new salary would attract people who are younger, of lower income or of diverse experience. (In other words, the raise is intended for them.)
* Another member said that those who approved the raise, while being entitled to it, should donate it to a city low-income fund. (Instead of donating it, why not leave it in the general fund? That way it would lower the city deficit and benefit all citizens, since everyone pays tax to shop or live here.)
If you care about this issue, ask council candidates where they stand. I did so at the candidate forum May 14 and found the answers illuminating. When you vote on June 3, remember: Character counts, especially where money is concerned.