by Pam Zubeck
On a 5-4 vote today, Colorado Springs City Council decided to place a measure before voters in the April 2 city election to increase Council pay from $6,250 per year to $48,000 a year, starting with those councilors elected in the 2015 election.
The move runs contrary to what the chief spokesman for the measure told the Independent on Monday. Tony Giaio told us, “We are asking Council to table this," with a goal to bring it back no later than 2014 so it could still become effective in 2015.
But Gioia and others, including Laura Long, didn't ask Council to table it. Instead, Council first defeated a motion by Councilor Tim Leigh to withdraw the measure and immediately thereafter approved a motion to approve the measure on second reading, meaning it will appear on the ballot.
Those favoring the measure were Council President Scott Hente, Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin and Councilors Lisa Czelatdko, Brandy Williams and Val Snider.
Those voting against it: Leigh, Angela Dougan, Merv Bennett and Bernie Herpin.
The measure calls for pay to be increased in 2015, if voters approve it. And some think that's a long shot.
Paul Kleinschmidt, a conservative who's campaigned for the city to out-source more work to private industry, said he and others have conducted an unscientific poll by asking people on the street how they'd vote. It's running 80 percent "no," he said.
He also complained that the $48,000 figure is arbitrary. After taxes and Social Security are withheld, it hardly would be a living wage for a young family, he said, which is the primary argument in favor of upping Council pay.
A group of young professionals, encouraged by Mayor Steve Bach to become more involved in city government, brought the issue forward, saying many young people can't afford to run for Council. The work is demanding, requiring full-time hours, which means few young people can afford to take time out from making a living to serve, the group argued.
Leigh argued against the measure, saying adjusting Council pay should be done in the context of a larger effort to amend the city Charter under a Charter review. He noted that as the result of such a review, and a possible change, the council's role might change. For example, there's been talk of having the mayor appoint members of the Utilities Board instead of having Council serve as the board.
Czelatdko lashed out, saying that even those supporting the change to a mayor-council form of government in 2010 asserted the new form should be allowed to operate for five years before proposing changes. The new form was adopted by voters in 2010 and put into place in June 2011 when Bach took office. Moreover, she said, she knew exactly what a councilor's job was supposed to be when she ran for it, and there's no reason to delay a pay increase pending some kind of charter change.
She also noted that the Council is the only elected body in city government that holds meetings at which citizens can address their elected officials on any topic of their choosing, as well as topics appearing on agendas.
"Let me remind you of the importance of the separation of powers," she said, hinting at discontent on Council with the mayor's attempts to control all of city government, even those areas specifically assigned to Council in the Charter. "Citizens need to realize the value of this body."
Martin argued in favor of the measure, saying, "The only way we're going to expand the size of the pool of people who participate in this process is to increase the salary."
Giaio later said he knew Council members wanted to place it on the ballot but didn't let the Indy know, because Long (the former Indy Give! coordinator) told him Tuesday morning was past the newspaper's deadline, which is incorrect.