Council split on pay raises in face of city financial crisis

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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “The real issue here is why are judges being paid so much?” said Zine, who plans to give his raise to charitable organizations in his west San Fernando Valley council district. “We have no control over this. It’s the state that decides salaries for judges that determines our pay.” Salaries paid to key Los Angeles city officials have been tied to judges’ pay since 1990 when voters approved Measure H, an ethics-reform package that prohibited elected city officials from earning money other than their city salary. At the time, the City Council decided to tie salaries to those of Municipal Court judges – $86,000 a year then – compared with council members’ pay of $62,000. The new formula stated that the controller would get 10percent more than a judge’s salary; the city attorney 20percent more; and the mayor 30 percent more. Even as Los Angeles faces severe financial problems, city officials were sharply divided Monday over whether to accept a recently announced pay raise that would boost their annual salaries to $178,000 or higher. The 4.16 percent raise, retroactive to July 1, is their fourth major salary hike in two years because of a policy that ties the pay of City Council members – as well as the mayor, city attorney and controller – to judges’ salaries. Seven council members and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said Monday that they will accept the raise. But four council members, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Controller Laura Chick said they will reject the extra money. Meanwhile, Councilmen Dennis Zine and Jose Huizar said they will accept the extra money, but donate it to charities in their districts. Two council members – Bernard Parks and Greig Smith – did not return calls. But as California in recent years has sought to boost judges’ pay, city officials have also seen their salaries soar. The most recent increases approved by the state would bring Villaraigosa’s salary up by $8,283, to $232,425. Chick also is rejecting her increase of $7,855, which would boost her salary to $196,667. Delgadillo’s salary will rise $8,569, to $214,546, and council members’ salaries will rise $7,141, to $178,789. Councilman Richard Alarcon – who will accept the raise – said he believes it should not be a political issue. “I’m not going to issue some politically patronizing statement about this,” Alarcon said. “If I do a good job, the people will re-elect me, regardless of what the salary is. If I’m doing a poor job, I will be out of office. “I work very hard for my district, seven days a week, every single holiday and most nights of the week. If voters feel it is inappropriate, they will let me know. If they like the work I do, they will return me to office.” Alarcon said he has heard comparisons of Los Angeles’ officials pay to other cities, such as New York or Chicago. “But the fact is we are a much smaller council and cost less than New York City and represent far more people,” Alarcon said. The budget for the 51-member New York City Council is $34.2 million. The Los Angeles City Council budget for this year is $26.4 million. New York council members are paid about $90,000 a year, although committee chairing and other leadership stipends can add up to $20,000 more. In Chicago, 50 aldermen make about $98,000 each. Other council members who say they will accept the increase are Ed Reyes, Tony Cardenas, Tom LaBonge, Bill Rosendahl, Jan Perry and Herb Wesson. Those rejecting it outright are Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jack Weiss and Council President Eric Garcetti. Zine, who also draws an $80,000 annual pension from his years as a Los Angeles police officer, said he has made a practice of donating $25,000 a year from his own pay to organizations in his district. “This year, I’ll be able to add a little more to it,” Zine said. Aides to Huizar said the councilman and his wife will be determining which groups will receive his donations. The raise comes at an awkward time for the council as the city budget faces at least a $75 million shortfall this coming year and the council is asking voters to continue a telephone users’ tax. The council also is weighing rate increases for both water and electricity that have been proposed by the Department of Water and Power. Late last week, Chick urged the City Council to look at developing a new way of setting the salaries. While her suggestion has received some support, no one has yet come up with a specific proposal other than to say it should be determined by a group separate from the City Council. “I think the last thing we want is the City Council in charge of setting salaries,” Perry said. “I think we have to be extremely cautious about having us determine the salaries.” And that would include linking the pay raises of officials to whatever contracts are negotiated for city workers. Delgadillo, through his spokesman Nick Velasquez, said the city attorney agrees with Perry. “He believes in the current system approved by voters,” Velasquez said. “But (he) believes it may be time to look at different systems of setting salaries, so long as the council and mayor don’t set their own.” WHERE THEY STAND ACCEPTING THE RAISE: City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo; council members Ed Reyes, Tom LaBonge, Bill Rosendahl, Jan Perry, Herb Wesson, Richard Alarcon and Tony Cardenas. REJECTING THE RAISE: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Controller Laura Chick; council members Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jack Weiss and Council President Eric Garcetti. DONATING THE RAISE: Councilmen Dennis Zine, Jose Huizar. DID NOT RESPOND: Councilmen Bernard Parks, Greig Smith.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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