Pew Charitable Trusts reports that of 15 of the biggest U.S. cities, the Los Angeles City Council spends more on personal staffs and offices than anyone, has the highest pay (L.A. $178,789/San Antonio $1,400!), and is one of only three municipal bodies in big U.S. cities to still insist that taxpayers provide their cars.
The embarrassing survey got one bit wrong, misstating that the 15 luxury-drenched L.A. City Council members employ a total staff of 195, including them. Wrong. This mass entourage -- funded by taxpayers -- numbers 300, including a passel of make-work "field deputies" described in the Los Angeles Daily News. Here's more anger-inducing data:
The Los Angeles City Council spends the most per seat, about $1.7 million, and Pittsburgh the least, about $226,000. The 15 councils cost local tax-payers a median of about $607,000 per seat this past year, the biggest part of which was salaries and benefits for staff and members.
As to the salaries, made famous/infamous by L.A. Weekly's cover story "Los Angeles on $300,000 a Day," Pew's researchers found:
Los Angeles has the highest average salaries for council members, $178,789, and San Antonio has the lowest, a maximum of only $1,400 per member. The ... council salary in Philadelphia is $121,107, fourth-highest out of the 15 councils studied.
And if you're wondering how we got stuck with 15 dukes and duchesses who each holds direct power over the city's increasingly corrupted land-use and development decisions in unusually vast, (horribly vast?) city council "districts" bigger than most cities, here's part of the answer:
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The size of city councils ranges from 51 seats in New York and 50 in Chicago, to 17 in Philadelphia, to just eight seats in San Diego. Relative to local populations, Los Angeles has the smallest council, with just one seat for every 255,500 residents.
-- Learn how the L.A. City Council repeatedly fails to do its core job, focusing instead on highly ineffective, inefficient, favor-based "constituent services" that react to, instead of make real fixes to, citywide infrastructure, land-use, congestion and other problems. The story: "Los Angeles on $300,000 A Year: Why Next Month's City Council Coronation Will Cost You More Than Money."
-- And do not miss "How L.A. City Council Got Those Huge $178,789 Salaries," an eye-opening look at the law of unintended consequences and voters' inability to understand the fine print.