With a recession smacking L.A. and home values plummeting, Los Angeles City Council members soon expect yet another automatic raise, and taxpayers can do nothing to stop them. They are the highest paid city council members in the nation, today earning $14,304 per month.
That's right, $14,304 per for each of the 15. Several of them will reap about $1 million each in perks and pay over the next four years, because they can now seek a third term in office thanks to the watered-down new L.A. term limits.
The sky-high Los Angeles City Council salaries are thanks to a few obscure lines added to the fine print of the Los Angeles City Charter and approved by unsuspecting voters several years ago. Voters approved so-called "Charter Reform" that gave Los Angeles residents the right to create Neighborhood Councils that could stand up to City Hall.
But in the verrrry fine print of the "reform," City Council salaries were forever tied to the pay raises given to Superior Court judges. Ever since, their pay has skyrocketed, making the $150,000 the council members earned just three years ago look cheap.
It's a very neat trick. Every time judges get another boost — which is frequently — so does the L.A. City Council, even if they and Antonio Villaraigosa have spent the city into a $400 million budget deficit, as this Los Angeles City Council has done for 2009.
By contrast, New York City Council members make only about $100,000, and the cost of living is far greater in Manhattan.
The bizarre salary formula that's making Los Angeles' "public servants" so rich has led to greed rather than graciousness, and that greed has shown itself even among the Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges.
As the Daily News reports today, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has been illegally adding $46,436 in cash perks (taxpayer money, folks) on top of the judges' groaning $178,789 annual salaries. Apparently, $178,789 is just not enough.
Last Friday, a three-judge panel of the state's 4th District Court of Appeal said the amazing $46,436 cash perks for the county's 400 judges (a staggering $120 million) are "not permissible," and, what's more, are against the state Constitution.
Is it a good thing to have rich judges, and rich LA City Council members, many of whom could never earn that kind of moola in a private job, who now are hooked on the cash more than they're hooked on pursuing smart policies?
I wonder what the Court of Appeal would make of the perks for Los Angeles City Council members Alarcon, Cardenas, Garcetti, Hahn, Greuel, Huizar, La Bonge, Parks, Perry, Reyes, Rosendahl, Smith, Weiss, Wesson and Zine.
LA City Council members get free gas for their free vehicles that are repaired for free at the Civic Center, and which enable the council members to tool around town for free with their huge, free staffs of roughly 20 to 25 aides all paid by taxpayers, not to mention their free, "discretionary," money pots that each council member privately controls.
That's all free, if you don't count the Los Angeles taxpayers who earn a median salary of about $45,000, and who have to cough up all that cash.
Add to those perks the juicy benefits packages for LA City Council members: free or nearly free top-of-the-line health care coverage, plus super-loaded, old-style public pensions, Circa Last Century, that will in a few years shower many of the sitting council members with money — long before they grow old.
Below is the California City Council Salaries/2008 Municipality Monthly Salary List. Note that members of the San Francisco City Council and the San Jose City Council earn half of what the 15 LA City Council members reap. Those Bay Area council members would probably argue that they do a much better job of governing San Francisco and San Jose than our City Hall bunch in LA.
And check out Bakersfield, which pays its council members $100 each per month. If you haven't been to former cow town Bakersfield recently, you'll be shocked by its pure livability, tidy neighborhoods and intelligent planning. The Bakersfield council turns out to be actual "public servants" who take a hundred bucks and clearly aren't in it for the cash.
THE CALIFORNIA CITY COUNCIL SALARY LIST:
Los Angeles $14,304 per month. Automatic raises when county judges get a raise.
San Diego $ 6,282 per month. Salary based on recommendations of local commission.
San Jose $7,500 per month. Salary based on comparable jurisdictions.
San Francisco $7,989 per month. Salary based on comparable jurisdictions.
Long Beach $2,423 per month. No set formula.
Fresno $5,416 per month. No set frequency, no set formula.
Oakland $5,854 per month. Cost of living raise up to 5% annually without public vote.
Sacramento $4,873 per monthy. No set formula.
Santa Ana $125 per month. No set frequency, no set formula.
Anaheim $1,500 per month. No set frequency, no set formula.
Stockton $1,994 per month. Every odd-numbered year.
Bakersfield, $100, set by city charter, unchanged since 1956.
Riverside $3,284, Every odd-numbered year.
Chula Vista $3,933 Set by charter, occurs annually.
Fremont $1,407 No set frequency, no set formula.
Modesto $800. No set frequency, no set formula.
Glendale $2,833 No set frequency, no set formula.
In Chicago, city leaders set their salaries in 2006 to rise with annual inflation. In New York, a commission periodically reviews public officials' pay and makes recommendations to the mayor and council.
In San Francisco, the city's Civil Service Commission reviews pay every five years and has the authority to increase mayor and Board of Supervisors pay on its own.
But in curious and curiouser Los Angeles, City Council salaries are tied to Superior Court judges' pay. Moreover, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa automatically earns 30 percent more than a council member.
Judicial pay in California rises annually by the average pay raise of a state employee, but steeper boosts in judges' pay have also been approved by the legislature. So, if you are following this, as the budget balloons in Sacramento and new rounds of pay raises are granted, judicial pay raises increase steadily — far beyond jumps in the cost of living.
Quietly, the L.A. City Council reaps each and every one of these pay boosts.