Just four people turned up to last night's public meeting on whether Richmond City Council members should get a raise. Two more meetings are planned, and all recommendations are due by November; after that, the decision is up to City Council. (Photo by Mark Robinson)
If meeting turnout is any indication, maybe a raise for city councilmembers isn’t so controversial, after all.
The seven-person committee tasked with gathering public input on whether City Council members should be paid more kicked their feet up early Wednesday night as only four people (minus reporters) showed up at City Hall to give their two cents on the matter.
The first was Viola Baskerville, a former City Councilwoman who says she knows firsthand that the job isn’t part-time. “I understand that what may be viewed as a ‘salary increase’ is a sensitive topic that may be politically charged,” Baskerville says. “However, these positions should receive the compensation that would attract as broad and as deep a pool of candidates from the individual districts as possible.”
City Council created the committee in September after president Michelle Mosby raised questions about council salaries over the summer. Currently, council members make $25,000, and the council president makes $27,000.
Richmond City Council (photo courtesy Facebook/Richmond City Council)
Steve Wilborn, a North Side resident, suggested using a graduated scale, so pay would increase based on the number of years in office. A $25,000 salary, he says, “is relatively low based on the amount of work that they perform for residents in their districts."
Daisy Weaver, who served as the council chief of staff from 2005 to 2011, says the number of support staff council has should be considered, as well as the strong-mayor form of government, not simply what representatives in surrounding localities are paid.
Barbara Brown, who lives on the South Side, says she doesn’t support increasing the salaries because council people “knew what they signed up for” when they ran for public office. And, she adds, “Some of your constituents are living on a whole lot less than $25,000.”
Two more committee meetings are scheduled: Monday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at the second-floor conference room in City Hall, and Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. at a location yet to be determined. Stanley says the committee will create an email address for resident feedback, as well. The committee’s recommendations are due to Council by November.
“Any conclusions or recommendations that this committee makes are truly advisory in nature,” says Matthew Stanley, the committee chair and president of the Fan District Association. “It will be up to City Council to advance any changes to current practice.”