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Local Politics 101: Who Are San Diego's Highest Paid Politicians?

April 17, 2018 1:36 p.m.

Local Politics 101: Who Are San Diego's Highest Paid Politicians?


Carl Luna, political science professor, San Diego Mesa College and University of San Diego

Related Story: Local Politics 101: Who Are San Diego's Highest Paid Politicians?


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>> There are lots of jobs that will never make you rich, what about politics? Do elected officials get paid well? Is that one of the reasons that people want to be politicians? This is a question that listeners want to know. Science professional Carl Luna is here to answer basic questions and political process. Welcome back Carl.
>> Good to be here.
>> Let's ask this question, my question of politics is why are some elected officials receiving generous salaries and benefits more than the average family, more than $100,000 a year? Others receive less than the average family, particularly in schools, does one generate a better set of elected leaders or what else is going on, why do they do that?
>> Why do they do that?
>> We to question, why do you pay them as much? A lot depends on how to measure that. You have to think City Councilman may run 65,000 a year, mayors 75,000 a year, this is a corporation that is worth $3 billion a year. If they're in the private sector, theory would have zero debt onto their salary. In general, you do not go into politics to get rich, you go into it for the power. Maybe for others it is an entry-level job to move up in. Eventually you make your money into consulting and lobbying. Politicians set their own salaries, that is simply the way goes. Elected bodies to that and they have increasingly not wanted to raise their salaries for fear the public will turn against them. Appointed officials like chief financial officers and cities, city managers, they make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even then, compared to the end of these, they are underpaid by private sector models.
>> Which elected officials make the most in San Diego?
>> The mayor makes 100,000, but that if you look at judges, they are elected, they may closer to 200,000, Board of Supervisors have gone a raise, they will be $175 a year. They are all running a multibillion dollar enterprise. School boards tend to be the lowest paid, some are barely compensated for anything. They make about 18 to 20,000, but they do get a nice health package. They always have to have another job. This is either looked at as volunteer work. The question is you get what you pay for, and the private sector you pay a lot for quality. In the public sector you try to do it for the cheap work
>> When you say you get what you pay for back to John's question, do you get better politicians, better elected officials if the salary is higher? I'm not sure you have a good measure for that.
>> You do know that in the city when you want to hire a manager, you have to be competitive. You have to pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars. I would tend to think that we are underserved to see and if you offer 300,000 on a job, you'll get a different level of people applying for it unless they are independently wealthy. Has a number of elected official households do, get their own salary.
>> Yosemite candidates on the ballot, local, federal, state, voters are often looking for shorthand and to vote for many people in this partisan environment work --. Local races are nonpartisan, and are endorsed by different groups. Are they endorsed by a group that you relate to? Expect that when you vote for someone, if they win they will do things to benefit someone like you. You look for groups like you that support them and try to infer that this is the person to vote for.
>> What is involved and what support comes along with an endorsement from an organization or an individual?
>> Endorsement can be as little as a branded board -- endorsement
>> If there are several Democrats or Republicans running for the same office, how does the party choose which candidate to endorse?
>> Carefully, if there is only one person running, they get the automatic endorsement. What you have to have, it depends on local democratic levels and Republican clubs. The individual clubs can choose to endorse or not to endorse. Party central committees can choose to endorse or not to endorse, if it is a conditional -- congestion -- congressional district, they can choose to endorse or not. If you do not have someone who is clearly the leader within the party, the tendency is to let race play out into the primary. Primaries were originally for that purpose. You let the voters decide who the preferences and to the party is behind the candidate.
>> To local political parties try to control how many candidates there are for certain election?
>> They wish. In the old days they used to be of do that, Artie leaders would get in the smoke-filled room and decide. We democratized and let the voters decide to vote. In San Diego for 2015, you had Manchester bringing in the leaders and that's it we will rally behind him, Democrats split their votes with David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher. They had their problems with that. Endorsements from local labor unions are also a big win for candidates. How much do they have in San Diego?
>> Not as much as they used to, depends on the seat and district. Labor union votes just like the chamber of Congress vote is not enough to tip you from a blue to red strict and vice versa. They can have a play out there. Labor unions at the county board have not been very effective, it is been more effective in giving majority Democrats. School boards tend to be very effective because they can run local candidates and bring on a lot of leader support which is unionized. This is if you are in a unionized district. You said --
>> You said a lot of people look at endorsement is a kind of code for who they will support based on whether or not they like the organization? Is that a good way to make a political decision?
>> Not necessarily a bad way. If you are looking at the track record, see who they're taking money from, what are the different bills and different less -- resolutions. The six tracking, if you want to shorthand and trust the group and if you like the Democratic Party in Boy Scouts, this can give you a quick way to know. Usually this will give you a correlation on how you want to vote.
>> I've been speaking with political science professor Carl Luna. If there is anything else you are wondering in politics and why the process works the way it does, submit your questions for San Diego politics and email us at our email. Carl thank you very much.
>> Thank you.