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Council rejects salary hikes for members, mayor

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego City Council Monday rejected a proposal to boost the salaries of the mayor and council members.

The council voted 7-2  to reject the proposal that would have boosted the mayor's salary from $100,464 to $107,095 effective July 1, 2019, and raised council pay from $75,386 to $80,361.

A city Salary Setting Commission, which began meeting last November, found that 26 council staff members earned more than council members, while 466 unclassified employees made more than the mayor.

Councilman Mark Kersey said while lower salaries can deter people from seeking public office, the council should not be voting on the issue.

"The process needs to be changed," he said.

Several council members suggested having the city's Rules Committee come up with a different solution, while Councilman Chris Ward said the public should vote on any proposed salary increase.

Councilman Scott Sherman said being a city council member "isn't supposed to be a career."

"We need to figure out a way to get the politics out of it," Sherman said. "What we have right now is not working."

Councilwoman Lori Zapf said while she understood criticism of letting the council vote on its own pay, the salary doesn't work for people "who actually have to support a family" and added that what the San Diego mayor earns "is a complete and utter disgrace."

As an example, Zapf said, the Chula Vista mayor makes $146,000 per year for a city of 243,000 residents, while San Diego has a population of 1.4 million.

She also said running a campaign is a grueling experience, and a if council member supports even a $1 increase, "I can guarantee you that your opponent will exploit that during a campaign."

In other action, the council agreed to lower taxi cab insurance limit requirements to $350,000. Local cab companies and the city Metropolitan Transit System's Taxicab Advisory Committee said the lower liability limit will help cab drivers better compete against the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.

Zapf said even with the two ride-hailing services impacting the cab industry, during prime tourist seasons, riders depend on all three.

Sherman, who voted against the proposal, said he understands the intent of cutting down on cab industry expenses, reducing liability is a mistake because of the risk of lawsuits.

"In this city, we require a million dollars liability for lots things," Sherman said.