Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

By Joe J. Petersen

This week the Santa Barbara City Council voted to approve a 2.6% raise for themselves and the community should be outraged.

We are still in a pandemic and the businesses that have survived are slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many people lost their jobs, businesses, necessary income, and even family members in the past year.

We are all struggling and the city has bemoaned how much of a deficit we’re in and how much tax revenue we’ve lost due to tourism. So they approve a raise for themselves? Granted the amount only comes out to nearly $2,500 total, but if it was only $1 we should be upset. 

City officials already have bloated incomes that the rest of us pay for with our ever-increasing, no pausing, no deferring, no excuses taxes. The rest of us seem to make do on small incomes and sacrifices while the city conducts nationwide searches for new employees and lures them in with salaries over $150,000 and calls it the “market rate.” It is not.

The City Council serves us, the people, the taxpayers. We should be able to determine who gets a raise and who doesn’t because it’s our money. 

I understand the amount is determined not by the council but by the city charter, however, the council votes to approve. Why didn’t the city council members vote against this? The city is already suffering from extensive salaries and pensions.

My idea to get us out of the hole, make salary cuts, reduce pensions for employees who retire at 50 with 80% of their salary for the rest of their life while getting jobs in other counties, stop voting to give yourselves raises, and lower property taxes for regular middle-income people who aren’t large development companies.

Then you would all be worth voting for, but this latest selfish act will make me advocate for wiping the slate cleaning and voting in new people. 

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  1. Per CA Law, each council member should receive a salary of $746 per month ($8,952 annually). The salary for council members is as outlined and regulated by State law.
    So, who decided they should make 5x that amount for about 20 hours of work per week, mostly just listening.

  2. How much anger can you have about such a small item? This raise to a mediocre salary is not going to do a thing to endanger the ability of the government to serve its people. Political show offs will ‘decline’ their salary I suppose but meanwhile the private sector grows increasingly wealthy and exercises its muscle by corrupting elected officials on a regular basis. We need to pay our representatives in such a way that they are not so easily bent. I say the raise if fine.

  3. It’s the principle. For such a small town, city employees are overpaid. And so is the city council. Other cities with much larger populations get $1500 stipend per month, not a middle income. Politicians forget they work FOR the people, this isn’t the private sector, being a politician should not be a full time job.
    And yes, it looks REALLY REALLY bad to accept a raise while people lost their homes, jobs, businesses, etc. They should have voted against it.

  4. We’ll never know who donates what to a community charity.
    However, the mayor is the only one without a second job; most of the others have substantial, from the private sector business/realestate lawyer, both here and in SL Obispo, to insurance company, to prof at SBCC, to Trader Joe’s, etc. The benefits of City medical insurance that come with city employment are substantial, including paying into a retirement fund.

  5. A small increase to an already small salary. Goleta voters last voted on salaries with Measure W in 2018. What’s the outrage? More compensation makes them more committed to the task, less prone to being bought be special interests, and more likely to be able to meet the high costs of living here. If the position doesn’t pay well, all we’ll get are retired or wealthy people that won’t be representative of the working class.

  6. A citizen “revolt” is called for in SB. Band together and demand more accountability and real action(s) from the council, employees AND the overpaid City Manager. This city really, really needs a shake-up.

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