City Council - Big work, little pay


The Solana Beach City Council recently voted themselves a pay raise, their first increase in four years. The new “salary” gives council members a little over $700 per month - still under the California minimum wage for a full-time employee. Obviously council members who often have private sector jobs are not full-time employees of their city - or are they? It sometimes seems like it, especially lately in Del Mar.

Earlier this year Mayor Jerry Sanders vetoed a 66 percent pay hike for San Diego City Council members, but they still make a tidy little sum of over $75,000 a year. As a comparison, council members of the county’s smallest city Del Mar, get a correspondingly smallest stipend in the county of $300 a month, the mayor; $350.

Is it time to consider a raise for the Del Mar City Council?

The crass response would be that these are already highly paid professionals living in a wealthy community and the city’s citizen committees and board commissions who spend numerous hours volunteering their time on some tough issues perform their duties on their own dime.

But the reality is the City Council position is in essence a full-time job. Need proof? Besides all those outside governmental committees (think SANDAG, NCTD) assigned to council members, consider the latest city budget workshop that lasted over eight hours, or a recent special council meeting concerning the Garden Del Mar project, which also included further discussion and final approval of the city’s budget. The staff report for the Garden Del Mar agenda item, which we assume was well read by council members, came in at a hefty 182 pages not included the Garden Del Mar’s environmental impact report or its draft specific plan, which added another 200 or so pages. It’s almost like cramming for a university-level exam.

There are some tough and important issues facing Del Mar and Solana Beach - its tough being the little guy on the block.

The Solana Beach pay raise was fairly nominal at just under $119 a month, and that was the first self-imposed pay hike performed by that council in four years. One could argue that the symbolism of any elected official giving themselves a pay raise; especially in these tough economic times is not lost on voters. But we could argue that there is also symbolism in giving a pat on the back to some hardworking individuals who have dedicated years of their life to making their city the best it can be.

Del Mar is reportedly losing two valued and longtime council members in current Mayor Dave Druker and Henry Abarbanel who have made it known they will not be seeking reelection this fall. The filing period for prospective replacements opens this month. Who knows? Maybe knowing you’d be working for peanuts instead of just shells might just give a little incentive to that next Druker or Abarbanel - symbolically speaking of course.