City Council Gives Themselves 32 Percent Raise

FEATURE

BY JON CRONIN
Staff Writer

FEATURE2The City Council voted 40 to 7 last Friday for legislation in favor of giving themselves a 32 percent raise that would bring their salaries from $112,500 to $148,500 annually.

The raise was prompted by the NYC Quadrennial Advisory Committee, which stated that City Council seats should formally be considered full-time positions, and that outside income and extra income, such as lulus –stipends given to committee chairs and leader- should be eliminated. The committee, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last year, recommended a pay raise to $138,315. The Council added an extra $10,185 to compensate for pay they received in lieu of their committee appointments.

Council members Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), Elizabeth Crowley (D- Glendale), Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), Alan Maisel (D-Brooklyn), Steven Matteo (R-Staten Island), Eric Ulrich (R- Ozone Park), and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) voted against the legislation.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/Bronx) stated, “By restricting outside income, designating Council Members’ positions as full-time jobs, and eliminating stipends for members, we’ll fulfill many recommendations of good-government groups and set a new standard for elected officials in our city.”

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) stated, that bill Int. 1078, which he sponsored, will give future Quadrennials more time, up to 120 days, to make their recommendations. The bill will also move future commissions from the second year of a four year term to the third. “This makes it more likely that the commission’s recommendations take effect in the next term, addressing issues associated with changes to compensation. I am proud to support these reforms, which improve the mechanics of city government,” said Van Bramer.

Earlier this week in a memo to the Council, Vallone stated that under this legislation some professions would allow unlimited income when some would allow none. Vallone’s amendment to the legislation proposed to cap all outside income at 15 percent regardless of the profession. During the Council hearing Friday, Vallone gave remarks illustrating his hesitations about the bill, but never introduced his legislation.

Vallone said while Council was in session that he would not go forward with his proposed amendment and was relieved to hear Mark Viverito would be open to further discussion of the bill. He said, “I will continue in an effort to ensure that every hard- working person, small business owner or professional are not unduly impacted and therefore discouraged from public service.”

After the meeting his office released the following statement, “It has been my position all along and still remains that all New Yorkers from every walk of life and profession, must be allowed to seek public office. True good government reforms do not prohibit income from certain professions while permitting other forms of income. A simple and fair cap on all income with no exceptions at 15 percent would have achieved this balance. This position is supported by many of our Council Members and good government groups. That is why I voted no today and I am very happy that the Speaker and my fellow Council Members have agreed to revisit this rule. As always, the ultimate decision as to what is acceptable must always remain with the voters of this great city.”

A staffer from Ulrich’s office said the council member voted against the legislation because he didn’t feel it would be prudent since city workers, such as the police, only received a one percent raise.

Council members Ruben Wills (D-South Jamaica), Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), and Deborah Rose (D-Staten Island) were absent.

As part of their reasoning for the raise, the advisory committee stated in their report, “It is clear from the foregoing data that, while their pay is large in relation to most constituents, the pay of New York City’s elected officials is low based on some other comparisons. In some cases, it is low in relation to officials in other cities, particularly so when the size of budgets and the cost of living are factored in. It is low in relation to heads of New York’s government authorities, non-profits and unions. Finally, it is extremely low in relation to private sector executives.”

The committee cited the need for a pay increase by including cost of living in New York City and increased responsibilities of council members.

Viverito submitted a 4,000 page report to the committee on Dec. 3 highlighting these increased responsibilities. The committee stated in their report, “The internal reforms add to the responsibilities and the work of individual Council members, as well as enhancing citizen participation in government.”

They noted council members’ “ability to force floor action on bills has been increased,” and responsibilities of committee chairs have been increased. They are required to have Additional transparency on Council actions, use technology to increase Council knowledge of constituent concerns across districts, increased Council activity on legislation, oversight hearings, land use review, and budget review and adoption.

The committee added that “the Council’s participatory budgeting reforms won the 2015 Innovation Award for Public Engagement in Government from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School,” which “spotlights those programs that engage all citizens, particularly those from overlooked communities, and that serve as effective models of participatory democracy for other communities throughout the United States.”

They noted they found the speaker’s points “well documented and persuasive.”

Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, jcronin@queenstribune.com or @JonathanSCronin

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