Hello City Council. Would you take a pay cut?
$178,789 a year. That’s how much you’d be earning if you were an L.A. City Council member. In fact you’d be earning more than any other city council person in the nation. Higher than New Yorkers. It also puts them in the top 5% of wage earners in the U.S. Plus the raises happen automatically, so L.A. City Council members don’t actually have to vote themselves an increase. Nice.
Earlier Mayor Villaraigosa said he’ll make do with 12% less in his paycheck and freeze his staff’s wages too. Will the Council follow suit? I wanted to find out so I put a call in to all 15 of them. I've categorized their answers. Here they are:
The ONE straight "Yes":
Dennis Zine (District 3):
He's is the only Council member who said straight out he'd take a 10% pay cut. Here's an excerpt from his letter to the City Controller. "Our City will face a $400 million plus deficit in the 2009-2010 budget, which will force the City to reduce services and most likely terminate a significant number of City employees I am therefore requesting that you prepare the necessary documents to reduce my salary by 10% which is to be returned to the City’s General Fund. If other elected official City employees voluntarily request a similar salary reduction we might be able to maintain our City work force and continue to deliver services to the people of Los Angeles. This is to be effective starting the next pay period.
Maybes, Ifs or "I'll take what they take":
Tom LaBonge (District 4) - His spokeswoman called and said Tom's position is this: “I’m open to anything. Whatever percentage city employees take I should take the same.”
Richard Alarcon (District 7) - "I'm sure that the City Council will make an adjustment of our salaries and I am confident that it will be a responsible salary. I will not attempt to steal press attention by offering an individual proposal or try to one-up my Council colleagues."
Herb Wesson (District 10) - His communications director called me and said their Council office - like all Council offices - has been cut 10%. Meaning the pot of money that funds the salaries, staff, office expenses for the whole City Council has been reduced 10%. It’s up to each Council member to apply it in their own way. No layoffs at this point in Councilman Wesson’s office, but everyone including the Councilman will be taking a cut in some kind of way.
Jose Huizar (District 14) - His office emailed me and said: "As a Council office we’re cutting our costs by at least 10 percent including requiring staff to participate in rolling furloughs, where they take unpaid days off. If we do in fact do rolling furloughs, Council member Huizar will participate, although he will not take any additional days off. He will simply take a cut in pay. If we do the rolling furloughs, we will do it strategically, so as not to disrupt services at any of our three district offices or City Hall space."
Bill Rosendahl (District 11) - Bill called back personally. He said, "If it helps to balance things out, I'll take the cut. Especially if it means workers providing vital services are left on the payroll. I would rather we all take cuts than some lose their jobs. I hope the unions get the message. If we share the pain we'll all come out of it better."
Points for turning down a recent raise:
Eric Garcetti (District 13) - Press person told me whatever sacrifices city employees make Eric is willing to make as well. Pay cuts. Furlough days, etc. (What about layoffs?) He is also among those who turned down the recent $7100 pay raise.
Wendy Greuel (District 2) - Councilwoman Wendy Greuel understands that everyone will need to sacrifice to balance the City's budget deficit this year, which is why she rejected the City Council's recent $7,000 pay raise. Councilwoman Greuel will be taking at least a 10% cut to her Council budget this year, in addition to the City car and $100,000 she returned to the general fund last year to help balance the City's budget. She is continuing to deliberate the City's budget for the coming year and will agree to any cuts that are made.
Jack Weiss (District 5) - His spokesperson responded by email saying, "Councilman Jack Weiss was one of the members who did not accept the most recent pay raise so he currently is paid approximately $7000 less than the set salary. When the Mayor recently said he was asking City employees to work an unpaid hour a week, Council member Weiss agreed to that reduction for the current fiscal year (which is about a 2.5% reduction). Council member Weiss will be leaving the City Council June 30."
Janice Hahn (District 15) - "We're still working through the budget. Everything is on the table, including pay cuts for all of us."
Greig Smith (District 12) - Press person emailed me. “The Councilman declined to weigh in on this. Thanks, have a good weekend.” I emailed back with a link to this blog. So maybe he’ll weigh in later.
Bernard Parks (District 8) - Councilman Park emailed me with this message, "Each Council office will absorb a percentage cut...You will see a variety of circumstances as far as laying people off and not filling vacant positions. One item we will consider is pay cuts. However, we will not know what that percentage is until the Budget process is finished."
Jan Perry (District 9) - I tried hard to find a yes or no in this response. "In order to solve this budget problem, all areas of the City will have to share in the pain, including the offices of the elected officials. This is the discussion that we will be engaging in as we tackle the challenging budget ahead. Solving this problem will require changing the way the City does business and looking at all solutions to find ways in which we can close the budget gap. This may include freezing salaries, work furloughs, and other tough choices."
Still waiting for answers:
Ed Reyes (District 1) - Press person said a cut would be largely symbolic. (Yes, but an important one.) He will ask Ed and get back to me.
Tony Cardenas (District 6) - Left numerous messages. Still waiting for a response.
Wendy Greuel (District 2) - Left numerous messages. Still waiting.
Here are the L.A. Weekly stories:
Commentary - By Jill Stewart - The 15 Los Angeles council members earn about $80,000 more than their counterparts in more expensive San Francisco and New York. And way more than the Miami City Council whose part-time pay is just $6,000 a year. At nearly $180,000 a year our council members - public servants as they are called - earn 400% more than the average Angeleno. In no other city could we find as big a disparity.