Dependable Erection

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Money, it's a hit

Just a quick note on a report in the N&O about the Durham City Council considering its first raise in pay since 1999.
Mayor Bill Bell now makes $15,672 per year. The proposed budget would raise that to $21,423, a nearly 37 percent increase.

That would match the pay of the chairwoman of the county commissioners.

Each of the six council members makes $12,240 a year. That would go up about 49 percent to $18,198 to equal what their commissioner counterparts receive.

As Durham continues to grow, more and more we will need our Council members to be on the job full time, or nearly full time. As it is now, with only 7 members of the Council, everyone is on multiple committees and in meetings or working for us at least 30 hours a week. They should be paid more than the folks in the drive through at McDonald's.

Quite honestly, the reduction in size of the Council from 13 to 7 some years back was an ill-considered mistake (and don't get me started on the fake ward system which effectively makes everyone on Council an at-large member) which will eventually have to be rectified, but these proposed raises are reasonable and more than justified, given the work we expect our Council to do.

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  • Council member Thomas Stith said at a budget public work session Tuesday that he's uncomfortable approving a raise in a year when the council is considering a tax increase.

    Assuming that the average council member works 30 hours a week, 45 weeks a year, they're basically making around $9/hour.

    I think it's irrelevant what their day jobs are/were...the people running this complex city (ok, so maybe the city manager technically "runs" things) ought to be making a heck of a lot more. I'll gladly pay higher taxes if it gets competent people to run for city office.

    Do I oversimplify the matter?

    By Blogger toastie, at 9:31 AM  

  • hell, the proposed raise comes out to a grand total of under $50,000.

    for everyone put together.

    there are 85,000+ households in Durham, with, i think, an average of 1.75 people in each household.

    That's about 60 cents per household, or about 40 cents per person.

    We can afford that.

    Especially if, as the city continues to grow, we want to attract quality people to run for Council.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:38 AM  

  • I agree 100% Barry. This is a no-brainer.

    I'm not surprised that our dear Lord of the Stith is in opposition. I mean, he works for Art Pope's Civitas think-tank as a VP, and I'm sure they get all the mileage they need politically out of Stith by having him be a gadfly on the Durham city council. (The same might be true of Bill Bell, of course.)

    Those councilfolk who have 'day jobs,' on the other hand, have to make a lot more sacrifices to make the whole deal work.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 11:49 AM  

  • Raleigh is similarly way behind the curve on this.

    These are professional level civil management positions that require someone's full time primary attention day after day. They should be paid accordingly.

    However, they should also have plenty of oversight so they can be ejected if they are screwing up.

    By Blogger viridari, at 1:49 PM  

  • However, they should also have plenty of oversight so they can be ejected if they are screwing up.

    i believe we call those elections.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 4:25 PM  

  • Don't quite agree with the assessment that 13 to 7 was a bad idea. My impression is that the change has resulted in a definite lack of peanut gallery candidates like Brenda Burnette and John Best and other dingbats who managed to get in either because either no one else would run or people couldn't keep track of 13 elections.

    I'm not thrilled with everyone on our current council, but the fact remains that most if not all take the job seriously and show up for meetings. In the days of the 13 member council, that wasn't something that could be counted on.

    By Anonymous Michael, at 9:51 PM  

  • michael - i think John Best first was elected after the Council dropped down to 7 members. there were also some very good council members who lost seats in the "purge."

    13 may be more than Durham needs, but i think that 7, including a mayor, is too small to represent the city.

    what i think i'd prefer to see is 5 district representatives (these could be more or less congruent with the PACs, 3 at-large seats, and the mayor. The mayor's term should be 4 years, like the rest of the council. the number of committee assignments that we expect each of our council members to fulfill is simply undoable for a normal person. i also strongly dislike the current "representative" system, where council members don't really represent districts. i understand the reasoning behind it, but it doesn't really work. different districts have different priorities, and someone needs to be advocating for those priorities as the basis for compromise, not trying to reach consensus on every single issue.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 10:29 PM  

  • This is definitely a very positive step in the right direction. It would be nice to see a few more options for these positions during elections, although I think the reimbursement is still too low to create any significant diversity in our City Council.

    This piece got me wondering about what the average salary for is for City Council members(or other similar elected local legislative jobs) in the US. I was not able to find any analysis for this, but I did find this comparison of state level legislature salaries:

    NC is right about in the middle, I would guess that we would show up about the same in a comparison of average local government salaries.

    By Blogger DTH, at 9:08 AM  

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