City lawmakers had three options when a report recommending hefty pay increases for council was put in front of them Tuesday.
They could have tabled it for a time when everybody was in the room, since Peter Milobar, Marg Spina and Pat Wallace were unavoidably absent.
But nobody raised a hand.
They could have referred the question to a referendum (technically, a “community opinion poll”) when the civic election is held a year from November, since the increases won’t take effect until 2015 anyway.
That would have been an interesting choice. Councils can ask non-binding ballot-box questions on anything they like, from paint colours for City Hall to open-pit mines to council paycheques.
Instead, they picked Door No. 3 and went for it. Arjun Singh, Donovan Cavers, Nancy Bepple and Nelly Dever sucked it up, as Dever would say, and took one for the citizens’ committee that recommended the hike.
Hats off to the committee members who accepted the mission, for they were the only seven people in all of Kamloops willing to do so.
Using a process stripped down to its skivvies, they covered the bases and made a tight deadline. After much discussion and a little public consultation, without researching council’s workload beyond looking at its meeting schedule, without addressing the volunteer component of being a councillor or the fact a third of council’s salaries is tax-free, the committee concluded an increase was in order.
Simply put, they adopted the “you get what you pay for” approach and got out a calculator.
Why not, reasoned the committee, take the average of what mayors are paid in Kamloops and 13 other B.C. cities, after dropping the highest and the lowest, and pay our mayor 90 per cent?
Then, pay the councillors 40 per cent of what the mayor gets, a number that assumes councillors work about half the hours the mayor does and subtracts points for having less responsibility.
Backing up the 40 per cent number is the average of what the 14 cities pay their councillors as compared to their mayors, that is, 38.9 per cent.
But wait, there’s more. Bepple, who started the whole exercise a few months ago by complaining about not getting paid enough, wasn’t about to take yes for an answer so easily.
She proposed the next council take 35 per cent of the mayor’s pay in 2015, raising it to 37.5 per cent the next year and topping out at the 40 per cent level the year after that.
Tina Lange voted against it (Ken Christian thought the whole thing was a bit rich), calling such calibrating “silly,” and I agree with her. If you’re going to pay it forward with a big fat raise, you might as well just do it. Council did what Phil Gaglardi used to say councils shouldn’t do — pet a chicken before cutting its head off.
But, a little petting and voila! — a life insurance actuary couldn’t have done better. The mayor gets $85,754 after the next election (he currently gets $74,434) and councillors will get $34,301, give or take, by 2027.
If the measure of how much politicians should be paid is how much other politicians are paid, the committee nailed it. Most of the six councillors at Tuesday’s meeting agreed.