City Council: Sharing the Pain?

Things seemed pretty rosy back in 2007. Sure, the city was running a deficit, but the economy seemed solid enough for City Councilmembers to vote themselves a 20 percent raise, upping their salary from $75,000 to $90,000. After all, many city employees were earning more than them. Then came the crash. Then came the overwhelming deficit. Then came the pink slips and the pink slips and the pink slips—1,300 of them this month alone.

The Mayor has already asked city employees to take a 10 percent, across the board pay cut, noting that the average salary for city workers is now $88,000 (yes, average), just slightly less than City Councilmembers make. Meanwhile, City Manager Debra Figone took a 3.75 percent pay cut last year, but she is still taking in $250,000.

The salary problem is bound to be an issue at tonight’s City Council meeting. Among the suggestions to be discussed is a 5 percent cut to the salaries of non-union workers and council staff, but as some point out, this would mean that City Council members could end up earning less than the average employee.

There are some shining examples among the council members. Mayor Chuck Reed turned down the raise back in 2007: he is still making $105,000 even though he could be getting $127,000. Meanwhile Vice Mayor Judy Chirco has asked the city to cut her salary by the 10 percent being demanded of city employees, while Pete Constant and Sam Liccardo have promised to follow her example. It will be interesting to see which councilmembers reject the pay cut tonight, and who decides to follow the example being set by Chirco, Constant, and Liccardo.
Read More at the Mercury News.


  1. “Among the suggestions to be discussed is a 5 percent cut to the salaries of non-union workers…”

    Reward the unions by cutting the salaries of other workers?  Ridiculous.

  2. Our city council and mayor should serve for only a stipend, like they do at every other city here in the county. The city council members all have other full time jobs, and being on the city council is only a part time job for them. Why should they make $90,000 a year plus full benefits? Santa Clara council members get only a monthly stipend and thier city is run infinitely better and is financially sound. I’m sufe Pierluigi Oliverios would agree to cutting his salary, since he is always pointing out the greed of city workers.

    • Being on the San Jose City Council is actually a full time job and members of the council are forced to give up their other jobs and in many cases currently take a pay cut to serve.  Be careful about setting the salary at a level at which good potential council members decide not to serve because it would require too much of a sacrifice to do so. 

      San Jose is a city of 1 million people, not 50,000 like Santa Clara.  It would be very hard to represent 100,000 on the council as a part time member with a full time day job.

      • The population of Santa Clara is over 100,000, not 50,000 as you stated. Ok, I will compromise. Set the salary at $50,000. There would still be plenty of qualified people to apply, especially since most of them are using their council position as a jumping board to a more lucrative position in either the public or private sector. Also, is the 7,000 a year car allowance per council member really necessary?

        • I agree about the car allowance, but disagree about the salary.  You will not get qualified people, who make $100,000 plus in the private sector, to take a 50% pay cut, no matter how much they want to serve the community.  Jumping to a higher level (after 8 years making half the money) is no guarantee. 

          So if I were on the council, I’d give back the car allowance but leave the salary where it is.

        • So I guess the wage argument also applies to keeping qualified employees.  That is, full time employees that work without an enormous support staff that the part time, yes part time council members have at their disposal.  The mayor and council are definately over payed for positions that should be held by persons motivated by selfless concern for better government and not a wage.  With 6,400 employees doing the work of running the city there is no true need for full time council members.

  3. The San Jose Council is a full time job. If you don’t believe me go look at any one of the council member’s calendars. Besides the working in city hall, they are expected to hold regular office hours, be parts of committees,smooze and be caught up on the issues.  They’re also expect to work during the weekends and at night as well to host events.  Lastly people like me will give them crap for having bad websites. 

    $90 – $100K is not out of the question for this type of badgering.

    As for the average employee costs… Its the cops and the fire department that drive that average cost up and not the librarians, janitors or pool attendents.  I don’t have a problem with people making a living wage or getting hazard pay.  I do have a problem with a pension system that is sucking money away from everything else though.  Pension reform can’t come quick enough.

    • The cops in San Jose are doing it with less than half the staffing of other major departments, and have been doing so for many, many years, saving the city hundreds of millions of dollars. The cops also pay almost 20% of their gross salaries into their own retirement and retiree medical system. Most other cities, especially in PERS, pays 100% of the officers contribution into PERS. Don’t worry too much Tony, per FBI statistics the average cop lives for just 11 years after retiring.

  4. Here’s how the city council can “share the pain”

    1.  Have the city relocate from the “Let them eat cake” palace to the plethora of empty office space around San Jose.

    2.  Sell the palace to Cesars or Harrahs.  Surely their’s an Indian tribe somewhere that can claim the land that CH is built upon is an Indian burial ground (which would explain a lot btw).

  5. I remember when Councilmen were paid $200 a year and it was more of a elected volunteer job to be on the council. They all had real jobs and made great decisions unlike the money grubbers of this embarrassing city council. 

    Did see the council meeting last night? 
    I was able to speak and the mayor told me it was not a question and answer time when I pointed out somethings about city spending and my support of the city employees. 

    I wanted answers because Mayor Greed and Council work for all of us.  I think they have lost sight of that and are out of control!!!

    • Thanks for the great comment Frank.  I also heard you speak at the meeting.  You made some very good points and Mayor Greed made himself look like a fool with his “not a question and answer session” remark.  Keep up the good work.

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