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Votes

Council Sets Public Hearings

New Development Office, Salary Increases on the Agendas

The Alexandria City Council considered the matters of an increase in salary for future Councils and establishing a city development office at the Sept. 24 meeting.

The development office was first raised as an issue in 2000. Council appointed a committee to study the issue, and that committee delivered its report to Council in the spring of 2001.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Council decided to defer the matter indefinitely because of the economy and the fact that nonprofits were struggling to meet the needs of the community. The matter was on the docket at this week’s legislative session.

“I think that it is important that we consider this matter at this time because we are faced with a number of capital projects that weren’t on the list at this time last year, and we are looking at projects that are going to cost a lot more than was originally projected,” said Councilman David G. Speck.

“I don’t think that any of us would pursue this if we believed that the development office would in any way compete with our nonprofit agencies. This is about financing our long-term capital needs without relying on revenue from real-estate taxes to meet those needs.”

Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland made a substitute motion to defer the item indefinitely. “Our nonprofit agencies out there are really struggling,” he said. “I don’t believe that we should add one more straw to the camel’s back, because this just might be the straw that breaks it. Now is just not the time to do this.”

Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper seconded Cleveland’s substitute motion. Councilwoman Claire Eberwein expressed concern.

“While I have some empathy for what Vice Mayor Cleveland said, I am not going to support his substitute motion,” she said. “I believe that we should take this to a public hearing and then decide.”

Cleveland’s substitute motion failed 5-2, and Speck’s motion to take the matter to a public hearing passed by the same margin.

COUNCIL ALSO received a report on whether to increase the salaries of Council members and the mayor. The recommendation from four former members of Council who comprised the committee was to increase all salaries by 10 percent. Council members in the next Council would make $22,000, and the mayor would make $25,000.

“While I appreciate the work of this committee, I think that these salaries should be more in line with those of our counterparts in the jurisdiction,” said Councilman William D. Euille. “I remember seeing some analysis on this matter that said if we had simply received cost-of-living increases for the past 15 years, Council salaries would be around $29,000, and the mayor’s salary would be just over $36,000. I think if we are going to take this to the public, we ought to consider some of these adjustments and look at the region.”

Mayor Kerry J. Donley suggested getting public input. “I believe that we simply ought to hear from the citizens,” he said. “We should get input from the Chamber and from the League of Women Voters and schedule a public hearing on the matter.”

Councilwoman Joyce Woodson agreed. “I agree we should have a public hearing,” she said. “While it is an honor and a privilege to serve, I have been astounded at the amount of work that is required for this job – far more than I anticipated. Even with the increases that are being suggested, we are not going to attract a wide range of the citizens of Alexandria to serve on Council. If we really want to be as diverse as we say we do, we need to consider adjusting the salaries.”

Council agreed to set the matter for a public hearing in October or November and hold a public hearing on the ordinance that would be required if the salaries are changed in December.