One of the issues, and likely to be the most controversial, is whether or not to give the mayor and council a pay raise.
Currently the city representatives make $29,000 a year and the mayor makes $45,000. To put that in perspective, staff members for commissioners court make more money than the mayor. The proposed increase would raise the city council members to $39,000 and the mayor to $55,000.
This would be a total increase to the budget of $90,000 annually.
Even after the increase, those salaries are significantly less than what the County Judge and commissioners make. The increase would put them in the middle of other Texas and regional municipalities.
Why I'm Voting for it
Hear me out. I know that city council isn't exactly giving me a lot to work with in terms of advocating for this position right now, but it makes sense.
Ultimately city council will probably lose out on this one and it will be their own fault because of the constant and unnecessary drama presentation they put on every Tuesday, but let me lay out my argument.
El Paso's city council doesn't even begin to look like the rest of this community. The current salary virtually guarantees that only retirees and the wealthy run for office because people of working age or those with kids almost can't afford to work for the city at that pay. There really isn't a delicate way of putting this so I'll just rip off the bandaid - council is older, whiter and richer than El Paso really is. A big reason that council doesn't look like the rest of El Paso is the fact that the positions don't pay shit.
Here's the break down of city council. You basically have three categories on council right now - the Upper Crust, Jurassic Park, and the kiddy table. The Upper Crust is made up of the wealthy members of council, Mayor Leeser and Reps Noe, Romero, and Niland. They are rich, what do they need more money for?
Jurassic Park is made up of the retired members of council - Reps Robinson, Limón and Acosta. They all have their pensions so what do they care about a raise?
The kiddy table is made up of the only two members of council who were born after The Beatles split up - Reps Svarzbein and Ordaz. They are the ones sacrificing the most because they can make more money doing something else that pays better. Especially Ordaz, she took a sizable pay cut to serve.
Right now the pay they get is actually lower than the average El Paso salary. The raise would put it just above the average salary. Our council doesn't look like El Paso because of this very reason. There is no economic incentive for working class people to choose elective office. Anyone in business knows if you want good talent you have to pay for it or that talent will go bye-bye and find somewhere else to work that will pay them what they are worth. Its the challenge of government, they are constantly losing talent to the private sector.
So let me address a few things that the opposition will argue. The first is the Carl Robinson and Lily Limón philosophy that says that elective office is an honor and service to your community. I don't disagree entirely with that argument and I think there is some merit to it. But lets also be real about something - neither of them are returning their salaries to the general fund. They very happily spend their pay checks. I would also argue that its very easy for them to say that as they accept their tax-payer funded pensions. Robison is a retired senior NCO and has a pension from the Army. Limón is a retired administrator and has a very nice pension.
The other argument is that city council gets some nice perks. So far as I can tell they get a cell phone allowance and a gas allowance. Neither of which make a dent in paying bills. That is probably the silliest argument because they need the money for their phone bill to actually do the job and they need the money for gas for the same reason.
Voters ultimately decide who they want to serve in office to represent them but the way things are now, they don't get the option to be able to send people that look more like the rest of this community.
Sure voting against it sends a message, but its short-sighted because you are ensuring that the pool of candidates is always shallow.
(Sidenote: According to ad hoc committee member, of the 70 or so members of the public that went to the meetings about the issue, not a single one expressed opposition to the raise)