By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
He ran against Villaraigosa for mayor, of course, and wasn’t exactly tight with N煤帽ez, Villaraigosa’s ally. Then, with N煤帽ez’s time as speaker running down due to term limits, Alarc贸n pondered a run at his powerful post. Rumors swirled in Sacramento that veteran political consultant Richie Ross was pushing Alarc贸n for N煤帽ez’s job — leaving N煤帽ez strategist Steve Maviglio notably unamused.
“The speaker, as you know,” Maviglio said, “had, and has, every intention of serving out his full term in the speakership. He wasn’t going to be pushed aside.”
With Alarc贸n’s dreams of the speakership dashed, his interest in returning to Los Angeles City Hall begins to make sense. The new, higher City Council salary of $171,648 a year — as distinguished from the mere $113,098 for members of the Assembly — bandied about by some as Alarc贸n’s reason, probably isn’t his key motivation. More likely, it’s his addiction to moving from political job to political job — and his probable latest desire, to be City Council president.
The truth is that, even as he was elected to the state Assembly last November, and while still serving in the state Senate, Alarc贸n was running for City Council. By the end of 2006, the Panorama City–based Alarc贸n had raised $94,144 for the northeast San Fernando Valley council seat and pushed a major candidate out. His main remaining opponent, Monica Rodriguez, had raised $44,874.
Although elected to the Assembly four months ago, he has done little. He didn’t bother to attend the Assembly Democrats’ recent policy retreat. Probably the only noteworthy move in this stage of his career is his bill to create a state cabinet-level “secretary for poverty.” (Shouldn’t it actually be a secretary against poverty?) No serious Sacramento-watchers believe that his plan, to create a post overseeing all state programs pertaining to anything at all poverty-related, will ever see the light of day.
When California voters adopted term limits in 1990, sold on the quaint notion of a return to citizen politicians, they undoubtedly never contemplated someone like Richard Alarc贸n, who in the past year has served as both state senator and assemblyman and sought election to the Assembly, to the Assembly speakership, and to the City Council.
Yet it took more than the now familiar game of political musical chairs brought on by term limits to come to this pass. It also took a Sacramento legislative system dominated by voting-district gerrymandering and special-interest finance — in which politicians catering to the hyperpartisan edges flourish — to create the Alarc贸n spectacle. One can only wonder what’s next, with Alarc贸n’s probable re-election to the Los Angeles City Council.
For more on Richard Alarc贸n, read David Zahniser's article, "Revolving Door"Pot of GoldWhat Council members reap Proposition R was approvedby Los Angeles voters to soften term limits for the Los Angeles City Council, whose members placed the measure on the ballot last year after a hurried and controversial vote. But the money pot the council created for itself via Prop. R went virtually unreported by the media:
• All current and former City Council members, if they win a third term (giving them 12 years on the council), will reap about $700,000 in additional salary. The council, already the highest-paid big-city council in the nation at a stunning $171,168 per year, receives a sizable raise each time California Superior Court judges get raises.
• A handful of City Council members — those who have not previously worked for government — will, during a third term, pass a 10-year employment threshold. Passing the 10-year mark qualifies them for lifelong health-care subsidies of about 50 percent already being reaped by the rest of the City Council, according to the city’s Personnel Department, amounting to about $1.25 million to $2.5 million per council member by age 82.
• Any council member who wins a third term — including any former council member, such as Richard Alarc贸n — will, based on a conservative estimate, reap $300,000 in additional pension, for a total pension of more than $1 million, according to city officials. Because of expected salary raises, which are likely to boost City Council pay past $200,000 in a few years, the pension pot will also grow.
• With a sizable fortune in extra pay and benefits awaiting them, many current and former City Council members are expected to begin eyeing another run for City Hall.
1. Council annual salaries, at $171,168 the nation’s highest — nearly double that of the New York City Council’s — will soon rise beyond $200,000 due to automatic raises based on judges’ pay.
2. Automatic “cost of living” raises are likely to push the current $900 monthly maximum health subsidy to $2,000 to $3,000 per month (as council members age).
3. This retirement pot, based on living to age 80, is expected to rise well beyond $1 million as further council pay raises kick in. Most of them also have government pensions from previous positions.
—Sources: City of L.A. Personnel Department and L.A. City Employees’ Retirement System
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