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SD City Council Votes Down Recommended Salary Increase

Evening Edition

Robert Ottilie, chairman of the Salary Setting Commission, talks to "Evening Edition" about why the mayor and city council members deserve raises.

Aired 3/5/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Robert Ottilie, chairman, San Diego Salary Setting Commission

Donna Frye, former San Diego City Council member


— The San Diego City Council today unanimously rejected a proposal to raise their pay and that of the city's mayor to more than double their current salaries.

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."

Councilmembers currently make $75,386, while the mayor makes $100,464. Neither position has seen a raise in almost a decade.

Robert Ottilie, the chairman of the Salary Setting Commission, told KPBS his proposal to raise salaries should be heeded.

“We don’t consider this to be a proposal for a raise, we consider it to be a salary adjustment to get more in line with where those salaries should be,” he said.

Ottilie said those salaries would allow people who’ve been successful in the nonprofit or private sector to take public service jobs for four or eight years without dipping into their savings.

“Because you know what, people aren’t going to do that,” he said. “So what we’ve done is limited our candidate pool to the point where what we have running for office are relatively young, inexperienced people that want to make it a career, that haven’t yet been successful with large businesses, or independently wealthy people.

“And let’s face it, the city of San Diego is the largest business in the city.”

Even with a raise, councilmembers in San Diego make less than councilmembers in Los Angeles, Ottilie said. He added that San Diego County supervisors make $143,000.

“So we’re not even close to what other jurisdictions are paying,” he said.

In the 2010 calendar year, 3,528 city workers took home more money than council members, including 33 lifeguards, according to Ottilie.

Ottilie blamed political fear for why councilmembers vote down raises, and said at first, his panel “thought we shouldn’t waste our time because they won’t vote for a raise.”

Instead, the panel presented two proposals for the City Council to vote on first. One is to change the rules so that a vote on raises would not include existing councilmembers.

The second is a charter amendment to take away the rule that councilmembers have to vote on their own pay.

“No one else votes on their own pay,” Ottilie said. “We don’t do that in the private or nonprofit sector. Why should we make them do that? It’s really unfair.”

At the meeting, Councilman Carl DeMaio said a charter amendment, which could cost about $500,000, was premature.

Ottilie told KPBS that the potential for salary freezes that would come if the pension reform initiative is passed mean “things are only going to get worse economically at the city.”

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Avatar for user 'robynsway'

robynsway | March 5, 2012 at 12:25 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

1. As a lawyer, I don't know any graduates who started on $130 K per year.
2. Husband is a pilot who has not had a pay raise since 2000. Sept 11 resulted in immediate loss of 30% of pay, plus erosion of benefits and loss of all pension, and no cost of living adjustment. With 30 yrs of experience, plus weekends and nights away, and not one vacation during school vacation, his pay is subject to the economy. Just because things have improved with the industry does not mean pay increase. Now - explain again why you think counsellors should get paid $80 thousand more than my spouse? If their interest is in money they should go to the private sector. If it is in public service, then they already have that.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | March 5, 2012 at 12:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

No public service council should EVER be allowed to set their own salary, EVER!

The PRIVILEGE of holding a job in PUBLIC SERVICE, especially in a leadership position, should not require pay more than the expenses involved. $75-100K/year (+Benefits?Pension?) is much grater than the average household income in the City San Diego. Those people who go into public service for the money are not the type of people we need in public service.

It is unnecessary to pay our mayor or city council, there are many qualified people who will pay to hold those positions. The entire concept of a public servant being compensated in amounts comparable to the hyper-inflated corporate salaries of PRIVATE SECTOR cronies is based upon a false premise. Government agencies ARE NOT BUSINESSES, they can not go OUT OF BUSINESS, they do not respond to market forces, they set their own price through taxes and have a MONOPOLY upon power.

This whole conversation is surreal. Why are people working for non-profit organizations like the City or the YMCA making millions while the people they work for starve? If you want to make sure that the city council can afford transportation buy them a $72/month bus pass! They don't need $8000/year in car allowance!

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Avatar for user 'jbpolhamus'

jbpolhamus | March 5, 2012 at 1:24 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

AND DO THEY DESERVE EVEN WHAT THEY GET? I THINK NOT!! This is outrageous. Poor babies, do they know what most of the families in their so-called city would do for the $75K that they just can't make ends meet on?!?! The City can't even trim the palm trees on Honeycutt St., and they're doubling their salaries. This is repellent!!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 5, 2012 at 7:38 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

San Diego's salaries are well below other cities in the U.S. in this regard.

Our city has shown improvement finally from the pension crisis and I think it's reasonable to bring them up to average levels.

I happen to take pride in the city I live in and I want people who run this city making what their counterparts in other cities make.

San Diegans don't take pride in this city.

They expect our city administration to continue in a crubmling shanty and cry bloody murder when a new city hall is proposed that could actually save money long-term.

And now we have commenters here seriously suggesting they shouldn't get paid at all or should not be paid even the comparatively low salaries they currently receive.

San Diegans are completely unreasonable and unrealistic when it comes to city taxes, services, and salaries.

And it shows.

We have one of the least civically-active populations in the country, we rank terribly in carrying out civic, social, and community services, any type of arts or cultural programs struggle, and the transportation system sucks so bad I've ridden on better mass transit in India.

Youngetbwhatbyoumpay for, and San Diegans refuse tompaymfor anything so we have a pretty underwhelming city of mediocrity.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 5, 2012 at 7:41 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

That last sentence should read, "you get what you pay for, and San Diegans refuse to pay for anything so we have a pretty underwhelming city of mediocrity"

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 5, 2012 at 11:09 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Philosopher 3000 wrote :
*It is unnecessary to pay our mayor or city council, there are many qualified people who will pay to hold those positions*

Please, philosopher, name some of these people whp are qualified and willing to work in city hall for free.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | March 6, 2012 at 3:52 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

So much for the idealism of public service. For this to come at a time when teachers are being laid off and our pension benefits for our saviors (as in police and fire dept) sky rocket out of control goes to show you where our public leaders' priorities are.

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