skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

San Diego City Council Votes To Maintain Salary Levels

Evening Edition

Aired 3/11/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Bob Ottilie, Chair, San Diego Salary Setting Commission


The San Diego City Council voted Monday to maintain current salaries for the mayor and council members for the next two years, and seek procedural changes to how compensation is determined for elected officials.

The mayor currently makes $100,000 and change annually, while City Council members earn a little over $75,000.

Bob Ottilie, the leader of the Salary Setting Commission that recommended no pay changes, told the council members they had made it clear in recent years that they didn't want a raise.

He said at a news conference last Friday that this was the first time in the panel's 41-year history where no adjustment was recommended over a two-year period.

While the council held the line on salaries during the recession and resulting fiscal crisis in municipal government, Ottilie said the city was risking a leadership drain by offering relatively low pay to elected officials.

"Any further delay in addressing a problem the commission has warned you of over the last six years will have, in our view, catastrophic consequences to our ability to attract the largest number of talented individuals in the candidate pool for the city's leadership positions," Ottilie said.

He said only people who don't already make $75,000 a year, or the wealthy, can afford to run for office. Salaries would have to be increased by 30 percent just to meet the higher cost of living, he said.

According to Ottilie, about 4,000 city employees make more money than council members, including 29 lifeguards.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald said the city faces "complicated, sophisticated" issues that require the "brightest and best" candidates in the future.

The 5-3 vote by the City Council also included instruction for the commissioners to work with the City Attorney's Office to come up with a way to take the City Council out of the salary setting process.

Currently, the commission recommends an action but the City Council has final say. Ottilie said that creates a situation where pay is not raised for political reasons, but that results in the lesser talent pool.

He recommended allowing the City Council to continue to make the final determination on salaries, but any raises would not take effect while current members are in office.

Initial suggestions for a new procedure will be returned to a City Council committee in a few months.

The council members could make the changes to the process by ordinance, but also might seek to amend the City Charter, which would require a public vote. The deadline is August to get onto the November ballot.

City Council President Todd Gloria said voting on your own salary is "awkward at best."

Council members Sherri Lightner, Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf cast the dissenting votes. Lightner and Kersey initially expressed support for the motion put forth by Emerald, but wanted it split into two votes. Zapf did not comment.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | March 10, 2014 at 7:48 a.m. ― 3 years ago

don't they get enough "perks" from the job already ?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 10, 2014 at 9:13 a.m. ― 3 years ago

higher pay to attract better talent??? How about to attract more honest people???

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | March 10, 2014 at 10:12 a.m. ― 3 years ago

from what we see in the press, the last thing they are there for is a pay check.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 10, 2014 at 10:27 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Hey why not? Maybe if we pay them 250k a year they will almost be able to afford an average house.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | March 10, 2014 at 6:34 p.m. ― 3 years ago

They are all just worthless politicians bought and paid for by my fellow workers our the corporate greed. Which side are you on?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'xjailer'

xjailer | March 11, 2014 at 5:44 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Sherri :Lightner, Mark Kersey and Lori Zapf really showed their true colors by voting to raise there salary, really, do they have the best interest in San Diego or their own pockets?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Frankie'

Frankie | March 11, 2014 at 11:02 p.m. ― 3 years ago

What is Bob Ottilie's brand of snake oil? I have never heard such outrageous spinning of a plan to get City Councilmembers off the hook of having to make the decision to grant themselves a pay raise. Why doesn't KPBS include a spokesperson for the other point of view on the same program?

I disagree with Ottilie: we "lost" Councilman Tony Young to the Red Cross, not because of the pay differential, but because Young lost his personal commitment to continue serving his Latino and African-American constituents.The Red Cross grass was greener. Now we've just learned that Young has left the Red Cross, too, after a brief tenure. It will be interesting to see what his next steppingstone, um, job is.I'll bet it pays more than the Red Cross gig.

Ottilie says the system is dysfunctional, therefore change the City Charter to "pay to attract" the "best people" to run for public office? Once again a corporate model is held up as the model for public service -- in this instance, it's city government as previously it was public education. We need good people in public life, and good people are not bought by big paychecks: they are attracted by the challenges of community service.

Ottilie dares call his notion of proposed $175,000 Council salaries "good government reform" and he calls the citizens/voters of this city "shareholders." He compares San Diego City Council salaries to salaries paid by high-flying private enterprise. Pushing for a popular vote on such a Charter change will require an expensive campaign to get it passed, and we can expect special interests -- not "shareholders" --to be paying those bills.

( | suggest removal )