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Does Tony Young's Departure From City Council Signal Time To Rethink Salaries?

Raise Politicians' Salaries?
Does Tony Young's Departure From City Council Signal Time To Rethink Salaries?
GUESTS Joseph Kloberdanz, volunteer member of the San Diego Civil Service Commission. He previously served on the City of San Diego's Salary Setting Commission. Jim Madaffer, former San Diego City Councilmember. Now publisher of the Mission Times Courier and the La Mesa Courier

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Since the election earlier this month we've heard about several politicians in San Diego who accepted lucrative jobs in the private sector, assemblyman Nathan Fletcher going to QUALCOMM. State Sen. Christine Kehoe added to the California plug-in vehicle collaborative. Outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders is reportedly tripling his City Hall salary as he moves to head the Chamber of Commerce but perhaps the most surprising news is that a sitting councilmember, Tony Young of district four will resign to lead contractor of the Red Cross. That move is expected to significantly increase Young's City Hall salary so although it is not a popular subject some say that to keep qualified people in the public sector we need to pay our politicians more. Joining me to discuss this controversial topic are my guests Joseph Kloberdanz is chair of the city of San Diego civic commission, he previously served on the city of San Diego's salary setting. Commissioner Joseph, welcome to the program. JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: Thank you, thanks for having me. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jim Madaffer, former city Council member and a publisher of the mission times courier and the La Mesa courier and Jim Madaffer, welcome to KPBS Midday Edition. JIM MADAFFER: Thank you very much Maureen, good to be here. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Joseph you ran a commission years ago evaluating the salaries of San Diego's city Council and the Mayor. Did you find the salaries were adequate? JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: No, we found they were woefully inadequate. The city of San Diego is roughly $3 billion a year operation. We realize that fully one third of the city's employees made more than the city councilmember makes. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much does the city councilmember make? JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: About $75,000 a year. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the mayor? JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: About 100,000. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That seems like a pretty good salary to many people. Why is it inadequate? JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: Unless you are independently wealthy, the job is seven days a week as far as making some very important decisions under a lot of pressure, and quite simply the salary is just not commensurate with the demands of the job. As mentioned, $3 billion a year Corporation I mean, there are members of boards of directors of smaller companies that are, the only have five meetings a month and yet they pay far more than a city councilmember in San Diego makes. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Joseph what are the recommended salary increases for the Mayor and city Council members? JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: The salary setting commission arrived at the same number two years ago when I was at the commission and more recently earlier this year when the salary setting commission made its recommendations. They recommended that the Council members should make 175,000 per year and the mayor should make 235,000 per year. We believe that this make sense when you consider the scope of responsibilities they have and the experience and background that you would want a candidate for the offices to have. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jim, then what is your take on how the salary should be set for San Diego elected officials? In other words should they be tied to Superior Court salaries the way they are tied in Los Angeles? JIM MADAFFER: That would be my suggestion. I mean it's ridiculous that councilmember should even be faced with the idea of having to vote on their own salaries and that is the main reason why you haven't seen any salary increases since 2003, but even when I was on the council before I left I try to have the salaries raised. I don't remember the exact amount with the caveat that the results would go into effect not for the incumbents, but for those that would be elected in the future and even that was voted down. So it gets too, it's just not politically palatable and clearly I think the salary setting commission recommendations there number is much more on par with what you see in Los Angeles tend other large cities. You know when you talk about the average median salary in San Diego County for a family of four it's probably around 75,000. The San Diego councilmember is anything but average in terms of responsibility, demands, public service and I think it's high time that the citizens of the city realize that they need to move past the conversation and start doing something about it free are going to get, maybe turn it into a charter, part-time jobs so they can have other employment or get it over with and actually give it to a salary that is commensurate with the job. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you both, let me start with you, Jim what about this. Public service commission we expect some altruism and sacrifice even from the people who we choose to lead us? JIM MADAFFER: Absolutely the same time as I said earlier the only people that seem to afford the job are either independently wealthy or willing to take a vow of poverty. And I'm out sick people on the counselor that people, but the reality is just simply, you could, I suspect that is what Tony has done, I don't think so I was his primary motivation, but I'm sure effectively tripling his salary was also not a bad thing to see happen either for his family, for his daughters, going to college, and to provide for his family. At the end of the data has to be affected people think about. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know Joseph, hearing a $75,000 your salary being referred to as a vow of poverty is probably one of the reasons that this does not go very well with the electorate in general. How do you sell something like this? The idea that people who are elected to lead San Diego need to make more money? Two people who are making significantly less than $75,000 a year and really don't believe that city councilmembers are doing a greater job? JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: Well it is a hard reality, but people's compensation often varies with what they bring to the table. If you bring to the table the ability to effectively manage a $3 billion enterprise, that has one level of compensation if you don't have that skill set and you have some skill set that is much more constrained, that that dictates a different level of compensation. That is the hard reality. Not everybody likes that and not everybody understands it, so I think something we have not done enough of is his educating the general public as to what what we are trying to accomplish and how we may be falling short of meeting needs of the people of San Diego effectively. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, and Jim, you know, is there, you've been thinking about how to get this even through the Council because nobody seems to want to vote to raise their salaries, is there any way around this that you've been thinking about that could possibly lead to an increase in salaries for these elected officials without them actually having to cast a vote either for themselves or for their successors? JIM MADAFFER: Well I think the way they would have to do it is either put it to the people by changing the charter, or simply vote that from here on forward after everybody is on the council is off, you know when would affect the individuals voting, that their salaries would be tied to that of the judges. It's certainly within the power of the council to do that now, and it can be done in perpetuity. The salary setting commission could simply honor that and make their recommendations. But ultimately a charter change would be the best thing to fix it and really do we the public is going to have to try to ask the public to change their mind on this is a are we interested in attracting higher quality candidates, are we interested in keeping people in. I do not leave in the middle of the term? You mentioned at the beginning of your show there's a lot of other positions out of the private sector certainly as we have seen with Nathan Fletcher, Chris Kehoe and Jerry Sanders and now Tony Young is joining that pay quite a bit more than $75,000 a year. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering Joseph does the leap from public service also has a trickle-down effect for instance, if salaries for city employees are not at a capped rate, what kind of services that we get from the city. JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: As you know for the last four or five years there've been no across-the-board inflation adjustments for city employees. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: They have been effectively frozen JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: Before somebody took effectively a 6% cut years ago and has not been restored either it is worse than just frozen. So I am concerned citywide that you are eventually going to see an erosion of the candidate pool that you want for the positions throughout the 10,000 member workforce of the city of San Diego. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there because of time but I want to thank you both so much, Joseph Chair of the San Diego Civil Service Commission and Jim former San Diego city Council member, thank you both very much. JIM MADAFFER: You're welcome, thank you. JOSEPH KLOBERDANZ: Thank you, good to be here.

Since the election earlier this month, some politicians in San Diego have accepted lucrative jobs in the private sector.

State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is going to Qualcomm, state Senator Christine Kehoe is headed to the California Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative and outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders is reportedly tripling his salary as he moves to head the Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps the most surprising news is that a sitting San Diego councilmember, City Council President Tony Young, will resign to head the San Diego chapter of the Red Cross. That move is expected to at least triple Young's City Hall salary.


Although it's not a popular subject, especially during a bad economy, some say that to keep qualified people in the public sector, politicians should be paid more.

Joseph Kloberdanz, a volunteer member of the San Diego Civil Service Commission who previously served on the city's Salary Setting Commission, told KPBS public services salaries are "woefully below what they should be" for comparable work in the private and nonprofit sectors.

He said the amount of work and responsibility public leaders handle is only comparable to that of the heads of very large companies.

Councilmembers make $75,000 a year, while the mayor makes $100,000 a year. Kloberdanz said councilmembers and mayors in other large cities make more money.

Jim Madaffer, a former San Diego councilmember who now publishes the Mission Times Courier and the La Mesa Courier, said "unless you are independently wealthy, you're going to face financial hardship serving on the City Council."


He said the job takes seven days a week, 12 to 18 hours a day.

"Quite simply, the salary's just not commensurate with the demands of the job," he said.

In March, the Salary Setting Commission proposed that councilmembers be paid $175,000 for two fiscal years starting July 1, and that the mayor receive an annual salary of $235,000.

The City Council rejected this proposal. City Councilman David Alvarez said "it's a joke to even think that we would vote for this."

Corrected: December 10, 2023 at 8:03 AM PST
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.