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Riverside Council to Consider a Pay Cut

The proposal, by new Councilman Dom Betro, isn't thought likely to pass.

March 02, 2004|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

Riverside City Council members tonight will discuss cutting their own salaries by more than a third.

The proposal by newly elected Councilman Dom Betro calls for rolling back a pay increase that was approved in late 2002. If Betro is successful, which appears unlikely, the city will save nearly $100,000 annually.

Betro said the raise, which set each council member's salary at $3,128 a month, with an additional $100 a month for the mayor pro tem, was opposed by the city's salary commission but was approved by the City Council anyway.

"These positions are public service positions. The process which occurred to enact the raises was inappropriate and negated a recommendation of a charter-appointed citizens committee," he said. "The salaries are also out of line in comparison with other like cities in California."

Riverside's charter is under review, and the review committee plans a forum in April to discuss how the council's pay is determined. Rolling back the salary until then "would demonstrate accountability to the community," Betro said.

Betro's council colleagues said they did not support the proposal, which would decrease their salaries 37%.

Councilman Steve Adams called the proposal "elitist."

"It's too exclusionary. If we roll back the pay, then only businesspeople, wealthy people or retired people can participate" in city government, he said. Now, "single moms or dads or someone with lower income can participate. It's more inclusive."

Councilman Ed Adkison called the move "political grandstanding," noting that a cornerstone of Betro's campaign was that being a city councilman was a part-time job. "I don't really believe he thinks it's going to go anywhere," Adkison said. "But he can wave his flag and say 'I'm fighting for you.' "

He said comparisons with cities of similar size were meaningless because of the population explosion the Inland Empire was preparing for.

"Riverside is the largest city in the fastest-growing county in the United States," Adkison said. "You can't compare that to Santa Ana ... or Anaheim, where you're geographically constrained. We're going to have a million people move in in the next 10 to 15 years. We've got some issues we've got to address."

Adkison said there was nothing to stop Betro from reducing his own salary, following the lead of other politicians. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan accepted $1 annually, he said.

"Dom Betro, if he wants to work for $1 a year, he doesn't have to come back to council to do that. He can write a letter to human resources," he said. "It depends on [the depth of his convictions]. If it doesn't pass, is he going to go and reduce his wage?"

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