SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council voted Monday to maintain current salaries for the mayor and council members for the next two years, and seek procedural changes to how compensation is determined for elected officials.
The mayor currently makes $100,000 and change annually, while City Council members earn a little over $75,000.
Bob Ottilie, the leader of the Salary Setting Commission that recommended no pay changes, told the council members they had made it clear in recent years that they didn’t want a raise.
He said at a news conference last Friday that this was the first time in the panel’s 41-year history where no adjustment was recommended over a two- year period.
While the council held the line on salaries during the recession and resulting fiscal crisis in municipal government, Ottilie said the city was risking a leadership drain by offering relatively low pay to elected officials.
“Any further delay in addressing a problem the commission has warned you of over the last six years will have, in our view, catastrophic consequences to our ability to attract the largest number of talented individuals in the candidate pool for the city’s leadership positions,” Ottilie said.
He said only people who don’t already make $75,000 a year, or the wealthy, can afford to run for office. Salaries would have to be increased by 30 percent just to meet the higher cost of living, he said.
According to Ottilie, about 4,000 city employees make more money than council members, including 29 lifeguards.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald said the city faces “complicated, sophisticated” issues that require the “brightest and best” candidates in the future.
The 5-3 vote by the City Council also included instruction for the commissioners to work with the City Attorney’s Office to come up with a way to take the City Council out of the salary setting process.
Currently, the commission recommends an action but the City Council has final say. Ottilie said that creates a situation where pay is not raised for political reasons, but that results in the lesser talent pool.
He recommended allowing the City Council to continue to make the final determination on salaries, but any raises would not take effect while current members are in office.
Initial suggestions for a new procedure will be returned to a City Council committee in a few months.
The council members could make the changes to the process by ordinance, but also might seek to amend the City Charter, which would require a public vote. The deadline is August to get onto the November ballot.
City Council President Todd Gloria said voting on your own salary is “awkward at best.”
Council members Sherri Lightner, Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf cast the dissenting votes. Lightner and Kersey initially expressed support for the motion put forth by Emerald, but wanted it split into two votes. Zapf did not comment.