The San Diego City Council Monday unanimously rejected a proposal to raise their pay and that of the city's mayor to more than double their current salaries.
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The city's Salary Setting Commission proposed that council members be paid $175,000 for the next two fiscal years starting July 1, and that the mayor receive an annual salary of $235,000.
"It's a joke to even think that we would vote for this," said Councilman David Alvarez. "I don't think anybody on this council ran for council thinking that they were going to make a lot of money. Nobody's here to get rich."
"It is absolutely out of the question. It's not appropriate at this time," Councilwoman Sherri Lightner told 10News.
Lightner, who represents District 1, knows all too well the effects the economy has had on the city and the communities she represents -- from cuts to the city's fire department to library hours.
She told 10News that in her office she has already implemented cuts of her own.
"Right now, we've asked our employees to take cuts," said Lightner. "My office is taking a cut, so have I."
She said those cuts include about six percent pay decrease for her staff -- more than eight percent for herself.
That's why she said she cannot support the recommendation to increase the salaries of future council members.
The mayor is currently paid $100,464 and council members $75,386. They haven't had a salary boost in nine years, according to commission Chairman Robert Ottilie.
"This is a serious problem that's been kicked down the road for too long," Ottilie said.
In the 2010 calendar year, 3,528 city workers took home more money than council members, including 33 lifeguards, Ottilie said.
Ottilie said he recognized the lack of public support for members raising their own salaries, and suggested instead that they offer voters a City Charter amendment that changes the method for fixing pay rates. Otherwise, council members could keep the power to set salaries and have changes take effect for each district when they leave office.
Councilman Carl DeMaio said a charter amendment, which could cost about $500,000, was premature.
Ottilie said the commissioners studied salaries in comparable western cities and took into consideration such factors as San Diego's high cost of living, inflation and the need to remain competitive to attract talented individuals.
"This really isn't about whether people that run for the office want the $75,000 or not," Ottilie said. "What this is about is determining why people can't afford to run for the office; who would be excellent people to put in that candidate pool for the voters to chose from."
"Even with this adjustment to the salary of $175,000, our council members would still make less than council members in LA, which is the nearest comparison city," Ottilie added.
"I'm glad to feel that appreciated but I don't do this for the money," Lightner added. "I do this to serve my community and to help make the city a better place."
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