Pay the Man

If the San Jose City Council think their pay sucks, they have only themselves to blame. They’ve been too afraid to give themselves a raise over the years—and who can blame them? It’s kind of awkward—not to mention usually unpopular—for public employees to give themselves a salary boost. That’s why the council wants to revamp the way things are done when it comes to council compensation.

The way it works now is that a salary setting committee (appointed by the council) meets every other year. They bring recommendations to the council, who then vote for or against giving themselves more money. The council was thinking about asking the voters to amend the city charter and take that responsibility out of the hands of the City Council. The ballot measure reads like this: set the mayor and council salaries equal to 80 percent and 60 percent of the salary of a California Superior Court judge. But polls show that voters weren’t really into that.

The council agreed that maybe there were just too many tax measures going on the November ballot and now wasn’t a good time to address the subject, even if it meant changing the process so that in the future councils didn’t have to vote on their pay increases.

“I could support this at some other time, but I think going on the ballot this time, with the other tax measures on there, is a negative distraction,” said Mayor Chuck Reed.

The council historically has been forgoing raises despite the recommendations from the salary committee to boost its pay. But last year, the council decided in a 6-5 vote to take a 20 percent raise over two years (the mayor has waived his raise). Some argued that a council seat shouldn’t be about making big bucks, while others argued that council work is a full-time job and they have financial obligations and families to raise.

“I don’t want this to become a retiree hobby for the millionaires club,” said Councilman Pete Constant, who pushed for the pay increases last year. “I feel strongly about it. I long advocated to get quality people on council, and they won’t because they say it’s a pay cut.”

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. I’m very thankful for our city leaders, and they should be compensated accordingly:

    Madison Nguyen – Little Saigon Debacle, 42 cents
    Nora Campos – Limiting fast food restaurants, 37 cents
    Forrest Williams – Public Art for Southside Police Station, 54 cents

  2. Hi Fly,
    Could you or someone else please possibly name which council member voted each way on this matter of giving themselves a raise?

  3. If government wants to attract CFO’s and other highly competent people to elected office for a brief time then compensation should be raised.  In local government elected officials are either retired or near retirement otherwise they come from wealthy families and their competence is a mixed bag.

  4. 3. Are CFOs who are paid multimillion dollar salaries to replace American workers with starving people in Asia who will work for 50c a day the people we want to run our city government?

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