Pay raise for city officials proposed

by Ana Ceballos

Every two years, the City of San Diego’s Salary Setting Commission arranges a meeting to discuss the possibility of changing the salaries of elected officials. This year, the Salary Setting Commission simultaneously proposed to increase the salaries of council members from $75,000 annually to $175,000 annually and increase the mayor’s salary from approximately $100,000 to $235,000 annually.

According to political science professor Ronald King, the amount taken from the general fund for this salary raise is miniscule to the entire budget, but he acknowledges state budgets are “through the floors” because of the recession the United States is in.

“While we have made great strides developing fiscal reforms that have addressed our structural budget deficit, San Diego has other funding priorities than raises for elected officials,” council member Todd Gloria said. “While a higher salary could attract different candidates, City Council members earn more than many of our constituents.”

Mat Kostrinsky, a City Council candidate for District 7, acknowledges democracy is based on the right to disagree, and therefore public comment is imperative and “salary should not be the reason to run for City Council.”

“It is not a fiscal manner, it is symbolic,” King said. “I would be totally surprised if it passed, but it is still a terrible symbolic proposal in this economy.”

Council members aware of the issue were reached; four of the seven council members opposed and rejected the salary increase proposal and the rest were unable to respond or comment on the offer.

“I am strongly opposed to this proposal,” Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer said. “I am committed to not giving raises to elected officials.”

According to King, proposals such as these are made all the time without leading to any further action. More often than not, these salary-increasing proposals are made to attract the best candidates to run the city.

“We keep hearing that they need raises to attract better talent,” rhetorical writing studies graduate and activist for Occupy San Diego, Bo Elder, said. “But ordinary people won’t get raises because there is no more money available.”

“If that motif is true, why doesn’t it work when dealing with regular people?” Elder said. “Why are they increasing our president’s salary rather than teachers and faculty?”

Budget cuts severely affect access and quality across the school system. For the fiscal year 2011-12, San Diego State faced a cut of approximately $30 million, according to SDSU Budget Central.

Although the council has not seen a pay increase since 2003, the Salary Setting Commission understands this proposal is not likely to pass.

“It is not the time,” Kostrinsky said. “We should vote on whether or not to paint a wall a certain color before we vote on this.”