Is Inglewood Mayor Edward Vincent worth $49,621 a year, or is Proposition 1, which would raise his salary to that level from the current $10,800, the "greedy grab for tax dollars" its opponents say it is?
The proposition, which is on the April 7 ballot, would tie the mayor's salary to that of a municipal court judge. The mayor would receive two-thirds of a judge's pay, which is set by the state.
The mayor would also be vested in the city's executive pay plan, which means an additional 15% of his salary would be placed in a tax-deferred, interest-bearing fund that the mayor could draw on after retirement. The mayor would also receive medical and dental benefits.
Vincent, who is on an unpaid leave of absence from the Los Angeles County Probation Department, says being mayor takes "12, 14, 16 hours a day," which makes it impossible for him to work at his regular job.
"This thing is not about money, it's about time," Vincent said. "(The city's) charter was approved in 1929. At that point there were no people in Inglewood. There were no problems. There was no prostitution. There was no Redevelopment Agency. There was no graffiti. There were no gangs. There was no airport pollution. There was no Housing Authority. There was no sanitation district.
"I sit on all of these different boards and committees as mayor. We have over 100,000 people here now. So I'm saying, give me the time to do the job the people elected me to do."
If Proposition 1 fails, Vincent said he will return to the probation department and cut back on the hours he devotes to his mayoral duties. Vincent, who is 52, has been on unpaid leave about four years. He and his wife live on the salary he makes as mayor and she earns as a teacher, an aide said.
Sterling Gordon, one of the leaders of Inglewood Citizens Against Proposition 1, said that Inglewood is too small for a full-time mayor and that the proposition does not specify any additional duties for the mayor or require that he work full time.
Mayor's Duties Told
The City Charter requires the mayor, who is a member of the City Council, to preside at council meetings, sign official documents and perform ceremonial duties. City ordinances require him to sit on several boards.
"Inglewood is basically the same size as any city in the South Bay," Gordon said. "Inglewood already has the highest-paid mayor in the South Bay. The city manager (Paul Eccles) is the highest paid (at $117,514 a year) city manager in the country, which we feel he deserves.
"But I don't feel that we need to be insulted from a man (Vincent) who wants to retire from his regular job and just wants to get another income. Besides, if he wanted to, the way (the proposal) is written, he could work full time someplace else and not do any more for the city than he does now."
Gordon said that Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley makes "only $88,000 a year and he has a city of 3 million people."
Vincent, who was reelected to a second four-year term in November with 80% of the vote, said the voters would be the check on a mayor not doing enough work to justify his pay.
"If (a mayor) tends to make his job part time, then his tenure is going to be short time," Vincent said. He also said that Inglewood cannot be compared to its South Bay neighbors.
"Inglewood in the last 10 years has had a 436% increase in its minority population," Vincent said. "Inglewood is also plagued because of the 500,000 people who go through here every single day, going to the airport, sporting events and to work."
Vincent said the pay raise was not his idea, but the community's. The proposition was introduced by Councilman Danny Tabor and was approved for the ballot by a 4-0 council vote, with Vincent abstaining.
After it was put on the ballot, however, Tabor sent a letter to the residents of his district explaining the proposition but not taking a stand on it.
Other Salaries at Issue
Some opponents said Tabor was miffed to find out after submitting the proposal that Proposition 1 would not maintain council members' salaries at half the mayor's pay, which is currently the case.
Tabor said he had no such illusion.
"I knew that from the beginning," Tabor said. "(Raising the council's salaries) was never the intent.
"I think the mayor deserves more equitable pay for the work he does. (The position) is more than a ceremonial or part-time responsibility."
The proposition has become one of the main issues in the two council races that will also be on the ballot.
In District 4, where incumbent Virgle Benson is not running for reelection, Vincent-backed candidate Ervin (Tony) Thomas is the only one of the four candidates supporting the measure. His opponents, Garland Hardeman, William Jenkins and Joseph Young, have come out against the raise.
In District 2, incumbent Bruce U. Smith, also supported by Vincent, has declined to take a stand on the issue. He said that his vote to approve the measure for the ballot should not be construed as a sign of support.
Intended Vote a Secret