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7 Elected City Officials Decline Raises

Several council members decide to accept pay increases but donate some of the money to charities in their districts.

November 21, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

A rift has opened between Los Angeles elected officials after fewer than half of them decided by a deadline Thursday to turn down a 2.9% pay raise. Most of the rest said they would give at least part of the increase to charities in their districts.

Seven of the 18 elected city officials filed notices requesting that the raise, which is triggered automatically by a pay increase for judges, not be included in their paychecks.

City Controller Laura Chick, one of those declining a raise, was critical of colleagues who are accepting the money and donating it, saying that course gives them a tax write-off, bolsters their pensions and reaps political benefits while also taking tax dollars from the city's depleted treasury.

"I don't think it's a good, logical decision," Chick said. "It's still taking additional taxpayer funds for one's own purpose and use."

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is donating her $4,000 raise to New Image, an emergency shelter bed program for the homeless, disputed Chick's assessment.

"My personal feeling is I would like to direct as much money as I can to keep shelter beds open," Perry said. "Once the money goes to the general fund, I have no control over where it goes."

Councilman Alex Padilla also defended his decision to give his raise to the proposed Children's Museum in the San Fernando Valley.

"I find it hard to believe a charitable contribution is being criticized," said David Gershwin, a spokesman for Padilla.

Councilman Tom LaBonge gave up the raise, saying that accepting it would send the wrong message at a time when the city is grappling with a budget crisis and is asking council staff members and general managers to forgo a 3% raise scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

"I'm not taking the money so the city general fund has more money," he said.

Only Councilmen Antonio Villaraigosa and Bernard C. Parks are accepting the $4,000 raise without making any specific commitment to donate it to charity. A Parks spokesman said it is nobody's business what he does with his pay.

Villaraigosa said he would accept the raise and discuss the matter with his family: "I will talk it over with my wife about what we are going to do with it."

Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said she thought it was appropriate to accept the increase because she regularly taps her own pocketbook to cover expenses in her council district that are not funded by the city. She said her raise would go to community groups and district expenses again this year.

For those who accept it, the raise boosts a council member's salary to $143,838 annually. The raise took effect Oct. 1 and is retroactive to July 1.

Besides Chick and LaBonge, those who notified the controller's office by Thursday that they would decline the raise were Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and Councilmen Ed Reyes, Dennis Zine, Greig Smith and Eric Garcetti.

Mayor James K. Hahn said he would pass his raise on to L.A.'s Best after-school program. Others who said they would accept the raise but donate it all to charity were Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Councilmen Tony Cardenas, Jack Weiss and Martin Ludlow.

City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo also plans to help a charity, probably one that is education-related, according to spokesman Eric Moses. "Rocky is going to take the increase and look for a charitable organization to donate some or all of the money to," Moses said.

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