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

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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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33 Comments

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a-1619941103 May 02, 2021 12:38 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

$4204 monthly council member
$5255 monthly mayor

took a while to find it.
https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=16426

A lot more than I ever made, but they have to work a ton of hours. I topped out at 30-something thousand a year, after 5 years, working for the county, but I had great benefits.
I hope this is good information for those who think every governmental employee is a rip-off. I worked my ass off, regular unpaid overtime because bosses would ding me for that, and was regularly confronted with angry scary customers, because I worked for a department who ticketed people.

a-1619940548 May 02, 2021 12:29 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

"In Santa Barbara, the council pay is dictated by city charter, not by the council itself. It goes up or down automatically based on fluctuations of the Area Median Income. The council vote ratifies those fluctuations."
https://www.independent.com/2021/04/28/santa-barbara-city-council-gives-itself-2-6-percent-raise/

I can't really berate them for such a small increase. It's not like they're our national reps, many of whom, from many states, are millionaires.

a-1619940258 May 02, 2021 12:24 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

I'm still looking for source for City Council members' salaries.

There's this: https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=16426

Shrug. If you're envious, get yourself a better job. I used to work for SB County at lowest levels. I tested in to getting an interview because first picks didn't take the job. I made 13-something$ per hour in the 2000's. The benefits were great. The stress, at a public counter, was HUGE.
Don't complain until you've fought for such a job.

MarcelK May 01, 2021 12:05 PM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

Your anger is misdirected: https://time.com/5888024/50-trillion-income-inequality-america/ "Price and Edwards calculate that the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality had grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020. That’s $50 trillion that would have gone into the paychecks of working Americans had inequality held constant—$50 trillion that would have built a far larger and more prosperous economy—$50 trillion that would have enabled the vast majority of Americans to enter this pandemic far more healthy, resilient, and financially secure."

AwareHuman May 01, 2021 11:21 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

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.

Luvaduck May 01, 2021 08:59 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

Anyone being paid by taxpayers should get increases in line with Medicare increases (or bank savings interest rates, currently 0.08%) Perhaps if politicians had something on the line, those increases would be more in line with actual inflation rates and police/fire/academia/road maintenance and all the rest would force the issue.

a-1619815370 Apr 30, 2021 01:42 PM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

In 2019, City of Santa Barbara employees cost us $105,558,916 in total wages plus $21,310,774 in retirement and healthcare.

Source: https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/Cities/City.aspx?entityid=450&year=2019

a-1619814901 Apr 30, 2021 01:35 PM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

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.

a-1619941685 May 02, 2021 12:48 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

Such a wage is impossible if the elected role is their only job. I don't want a representative who works full-time at another job. I don't think that's what the role deserves or needs.
I worked as a board liasion at a non-profit. I have an idea what it takes to be a policy wonk and to do such work. I want my politician, even at this supposedly low level, to put all their attention to this job.

a-1619810036 Apr 30, 2021 12:13 PM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

The optics here are particularly bad. The city is about to get a huge cash infusion from the feds, in the tens of millions. That will be used to shore up their coffers and keep paying their employees. Businesses went through hemorrhages in the last year. The city laid off their lowest-paid 400 workers. The people who MOST needed a job. Homelessness has exploded. There is no success here that justifies a raise, automatic or otherwise. It would have been a hugely symbolic and appreciated gesture for them to unanimously vote that raise down, to show that we're all suffering together, and are in this together.

a-1619941534 May 02, 2021 12:45 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

You may well be right. I still haven't figured out this issue. I want my political representatives to make a living wage. On the other hand, they're making more than I did as a governmental employee. But I know first-hand the harassment that can come with such a job. I still want them to make enough money to mostly devote themselves to the job. I do not begrudge them what they do to earn money, nor do I begrudge them a good wage.

ChillinGrillin Apr 30, 2021 12:03 PM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

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.

RHS May 01, 2021 10:57 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

Lucky 777 et alia: The optics have been about greed for the last four years. Greed by corporations and uber-wealthy individuals who got their taxes cut or even eliminated; greet about roll -backs on environmental laws that threatened profits of polluters. Greed from a President who filled his pockets with income from supplicants who paid exorbitant money to stay at his hotels. It is not greed to pay people who receive such modest incomes in a manner that encourages them to remain independent and interested in their job.

RHS Apr 30, 2021 10:35 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

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.

a-1619805102 Apr 30, 2021 10:51 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

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.

a-1619804042 Apr 30, 2021 10:34 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

From what I understand, the raise is dictated by the city charter. I am not sure that the council had much choice in the matter. I agree it doesn't look to good and declining the raise would be a good thing. Maybe they will decide to donate their $50 per week raise to a community charity.

a-1619942496 May 02, 2021 01:01 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

SINCE WHEN IS WORKING AT TJ'S SUBSTANTIAL INCOME?!! lol
Who are you and what is YOUR work?!

When I misguidedly voted for Friedman, he was working at Trader Joe's and living in an apartment in an extremely crowded neighborhood close to me; a neighborhood I know well as I've lived in SB all my life. He does NOT have substantial income. I don't believe other local government members are rich. Would be better if they were easily supporting themselves!

a-1619808711 Apr 30, 2021 11:51 AM
Op-Ed: City Council Should Not Get Raises During Pandemic

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.

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