Question: Where were you the evening of Wednesday Feb. 24?
I’m guessing you weren’t at city hall in the council chambers.
Neither was I; life got in the way.
But I guess I should have known that Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr was going to move a motion to give her and her fellow councillors a pay increase of $8,968 this year to top up their annual salaries to $80,029.
And I guess I should have known the city’s 10 councillors would be getting another $8,968 “one-time payment” to cover off their past year on the job.
I should have also known each councillor will get $6,000 a year to hire a person or people to help them with their workload.
Thing is, I didn’t know any of this.
Not sure that anybody did except the politicians because Carr’s motion, which she introduced shortly after 8 p.m. after a marathon council session that began at 9:30 a.m., wasn’t on the agenda for that meeting.
All the public knew is that a city staff person was scheduled to give a presentation on the topic of remuneration for elected officials and what type of clerical support they receive to do their jobs.
As it turned out, there was no presentation. Instead, council elected to hear Carr’s lengthy motion, which totaled three pages. Not surprisingly, it was well received by politicians of all stripes.
I say “surprisingly” partly because I’m being cheeky. But “surprisingly” is also an accurate adverb to use because it’s not often that Carr’s motions are simultaneously welcomed by Vision Vancouver and the NPA.
But then I learned from watching the archived livestream of the meeting (yes, I’m well compensated for doing that, so no problem there folks), Carr had worked behind the scenes with Vision Coun. Tim Stevenson and NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball to bring her motion before council.
So there’s the background.
Now to the motion…
As I mentioned, it’s lengthy and I’ve already told you what councillors will earn this year. More detail is available on the city’s website (check council minutes for Feb. 24).In the meantime, here are a few more details you probably want to know:
· As of May 1, the acting mayor – that’s Vision Coun. Raymond Louie – will receive a monthly “supplement” equivalent to eight per cent of the mayor’s monthly salary. So that’s about another $1,000 per month.
· As acting mayor, Louie will also receive a one-time payment equivalent to eight per cent of the mayor’s salary, payable between Jan. 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016. Still doing the math on that one, but Louie’s getting more cash.
· The mayor, who will earn $161,308 this year, and each councillor will receive a one-time payment of $3,048 and then continue to receive the same amount each year. This is to cover extended health benefits they don’t receive. That's on top of the $80,029 salary.
· Park board commissioners will also see a spike in their annual salaries. They’ll see an increase of $8,326 this year and receive the same amount as a one-time payment to cover off their past year on the job.
Although I mentioned Carr’s motion was well received by the NPA and Vision, the vote wasn’t unanimous. In fact, there were six separate votes because her motion was severed into several parts.
Make of it what you want but Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer and NPA councillors George Affleck and Melissa De Genova voted against a pay increase for themselves.
They still get the cash, though.
What’s missing from all the hubbub over councillors getting a pay increase is context. The staff report that was never presented at the council meeting is now online and includes a very informative graph to provide that context.
Did you know a councillor in Winnipeg, who works in a city of 709,253 people, earns $89,346 per year? Or that an Ottawa councillor, who works in a city of 870,250 people, receives $93,999?
Vancouver has a population of 648,600 people and councillors began this year earning a salary of $71,061. So now they’re going to make $80,000 a year and get a few more bucks to cover extended health benefits and hire someone to help them be a more effective councillor.
Well that's just outrageous.