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Pomona Council Asks Voters for Its First Pay Increase in 31 Years

November 01, 1987|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — City Council members here think 31 years is too long to wait for a pay increase, and they want the city's voters to do something about it.

Proposition T, a referendum placed on Tuesday's ballot by the council, would amend the City Charter to permit council members to be paid according to the state guidelines for general law cities (those not governed by a charter). Because Pomona is a charter city, council members' pay can be increased only by a charter amendment approved by the voters.

The last time council members received a raise was 1956, when voters approved a monthly salary of $200 for council members and $400 for the mayor. If the measure is passed, council members will receive $600 a month and Mayor Donna Smith will receive $1,200 a month.

Proposition T is one of two charter amendments on Tuesday's ballot. The other, Proposition S, would revise the City Charter, replacing gender-specific terms such as "councilman" and "councilmanic districts" with neutral phrases such as "council member" and "council district."

Just as Proposition S is intended to purge the City Charter of antiquated language, proponents of Proposition T say the measure will bring council members' pay in step with the times.

The ballot statement in favor of Proposition T, signed by all four council members, argues that $600 a month is standard pay for council members in neighboring cities governed by general law. The statement further asserts that a dollar in 1987 has the same buying power that 30 cents did in 1956.

Smith said council members' salaries must be more competitive for the city to attract top-notch candidates.

"There are some very qualified people who should run for council but who can't take the time off to run a campaign or to really do justice to the job because maybe they're the main breadwinner for the family," she said.

No ballot statement opposing Proposition T was submitted to the county registrar-recorder's office. However, several community activists--including two of the four candidates running for the City Council--are against the proposal.

"There's so much that needs to be done in this city before the council starts thinking about themselves," said C. L. (Clay) Bryant, a former councilman and candidate for the council seat vacated by Smith when she was elected mayor in April. "If they insist on getting a raise, they should have their expense accounts cut by the same amount."

Candidate Dale Siler also opposes the proposition, saying the $28,800 annual cost of increasing council members' pay could be better spent elsewhere. However, candidates Terry Stemple and Alfred D. (Al) Niess both support the raise.

"I thought about this long before I ever thought of running for the council," Stemple said. "I think $200 a month is just a very unrealistic amount of money to pay someone who does such a tremendous amount of work for the city."

Niess said he does not consider the pay increase a major issue.

"Personally, it wouldn't make any difference to me," he said. "Big arguments about that are just so much pap. So they're going to add $25,000 (to the city budget) and give our board the same wage that everyone else gets."

Under state law, council members in general law cities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 can be paid $600 a month. Pomona's population is 117,800, according to the most recent estimates by the U. S. Census Bureau.

Fullerton, a general law city of 110,100, pays all council members, including the mayor, $576 a month. In Glendale, a charter city whose charter permits council members to be paid according to general law guidelines, council members received $600 a month until 1986, when the city's population went above 150,000. Glendale council members, including the mayor, now are paid $800 a month.

However, some other charter cities with populations comparable to Pomona pay their councils much less than the amount sought by Proposition T.

Pasadena, a charter city with a population of 130,800, pays all members of its Board of Directors $50 a meeting, not to exceed $250 a month. In Torrance, a charter city of 140,200, the salary for the mayor and City Council members is $100 a month.

But opponents of Proposition T say that regardless of what other cities pay their elected officials, it is an inappropriate symbolic gesture for Pomona council members to ask voters for a raise when the city has had budget deficits in recent years.

"With the utility tax and the Police Department understaffed and the city budget being in turmoil at this time, I don't see how they can justify asking for a raise," said Jerry Keane, president of the Pomona Concerned Citizens Committee.

Keane said his group has not taken an official position on the measure, but he does not think it will pass.

"I think the sentiment in the community is that when the council shows that they're doing something, then they deserve a raise," Keane said.

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