Wednesday, March 24, 2010

City Council commenter raises complaint, gets Cardenas' attention.

CM Tony Cardenas replied to a public commenter's complaint today about CMs getting raises in January while others in the city are facing layoffs and furloughs. That comment was something that provoked Tony to get up to be defensive again. He stated, "We did not get raises in January. That comment was in error." Cardenas went on to impress that fact of the erroneous nature of the charge upon the council meeting's audience present and, as always, including those viewing on city channel 35 the internet, and listening in on the councilphone telephone lines. He made it clear that the woman complaining already spoke with his aide to see that no raises occurred in January.

Cardenas did not give the complete picture, in my view, and how could you blame him? It's not a subject they like to hear. The fact of the council members being the highest salaried in the U.S. while also receiving automatic pay raises in a time of economic hardship doesn't sit well with most in the public. By the way, it's really not the issue whether they received a raise in January or not, but the fact that they receive the raises without any regard for either merit or the financial health of the city.

How L.A. City Council Got Those Huge $178,789 Salaries
By Patrick Range McDonald, Thursday, Feb 26 2009 L.A. WEEKLY, with additional reporting by Jill Stewart.

That story is already over a year old, but the same ills maintained by the events described in the story remain and continue to affect us as city residents, unfortunately for us.
The result of two unrelated actions — the clinging by politicians to gigantic council districts, and a naive “reform” that feeds ever-spiraling raises — are both gifts that keep on giving to the City Council. Their unusually large districts create what scholars like Abu-Lughod call an “entrance fee” — meaning that it costs far too much money for a regular citizen to run a districtwide campaign to oust a sitting Los Angeles City Council member. Instead, their races are usually little more than coronations. After 12 years, America’s highest paid council members are ousted — by term limits.
The story should be read carefully by anyone who has to hear a council member's excuses, as it is very short article. It is packed with some very eventful facts and useful descriptions to show us very clearly how things became so cushy for CMs and how it was all again a voter decision that maybe not all voting then even understood. Add some unexpected changes over time, like the merging of the Municipal Courts with the Superior Courts and a pay change, and you see how easily even more changes can occur.
For a comparison to current pay, take a look at how salary levels for Council members were just about 11 years ago, in July 1999,
"City Council Members Receive More Money, More Flak."

And that pay level was getting people's anger up back then, too. It describes changes since the Proposition H change in 1990 that created this pay raise autopilot condition where council members don't have to dirty their hands in setting any raises- they don't have to and this operation of the changed law gives them the ability, and they use it loudly, that "We don't control our pay levels or raises." But then they do nothing to CHANGE it, either, which would make them accountable in that action. It's too easy to sit back and let it all happen without taking responsibility for the good fortune, or the blame for their apparent avarice.

I just wanted to bring that topic up as I get tired of the CMs doing what Cardenas today trying to evade the big picture for any complaint brought up about their pay. They don't and should not be given any slack on this. It's too much compared to other cities- and the idea that a couple of them say, "We represent a population of [xx thousands] and should be paid as we are." or using that population angle to say, "We represent districts larger than many cities" and so on. They don't get paid on a per-person rate and it's all excuses that just make them sound more greedy. They have come a long way in 11 years. No wonder so many politicians want to come back to L.A. and run for city council.