Recently, our city manager tasked a group of five residents to research the issue of providing a pay raise to our City Council members and report back to him. As usual, this was done without input or notice to city residents. Currently, our City Council members receive $27,500 and the mayor receives $30,500. Each council member also receives a free 24 hour parking space below city hall, a private office, staff assistant, health insurance, life insurance and access to a retirement plan. All of this despite the fact that they are a part-time City Council, not full-time like larger cities. Currently, almost all of the City Council members also have a full-time job. The City of Alexandria has approximately 156,000 residents and is approximately 15.9 square miles in size, nowhere near the size of Washington D.C. or New York City. Yet, the current council is exploring the idea of voting themselves a pay raise.
Since when is working in public service supposed to make a person rich? Most people, who enter public service today, do so because they are of a benevolent and caring nature and believe it is their duty and honor to serve their fellow residents. Look at all our brave men and women serving in our armed services. Also look at the number of teachers, social workers and religious leaders working today. If a person wants to get rich, they go work for Wall Street or some other high paying corporate job.
Our city currently has over 70 boards and commissions, which dozens of city residents serve on for zero compensation. These board and commission members are usually very well educated and have substantial experience yet you don’t see them screaming to be paid. Again, they do it because they see it as an honor to serve their fellow residents. Our city manager, when giving speeches, likes to state that we have to pay our city workers a high salary to attract talented people or (my favorite) that surrounding communities are paying higher salaries. If surrounding communities are having higher debt or lower bond ratings, should we also follow suit? To this. I quote the lovable Colonel Potter from the sitcom MASH and say “Horse Hockey.”
Why do the City Council members feel their time is more important than those serving on various boards and commissions for zero compensation? Why is the starting salary of an Alexandria Police officer the lowest in the region? Aren’t they more deserving of a pay raise? Who forced you to run for City Council (you chose this profession)? Why don’t you donate your city salary to local charities? How about that Army private serving on the front lines in Syria or Afghanistan, making less than $20,000? Why should they literally put their life online for so little pay? Because again, they consider it a duty and honor to serve.
Yes, we all understand you attend numerous meetings outside your mandated council meetings. But isn’t that what public service is all about? To help, serve and provide for your fellow residents? Where is your benevolent nature? Why do you have this over inflated sense of self worth and entitlement mentality that you deserve a pay raise? Why do you feel that you deserve a larger salary because another council nearby pays more?
Today, we are being hit with all kinds of fees (sewer and water); additional taxes (meals tax) and escalating property taxes. We need to save money where we can and we don’t need to give our council members a pay raise. I strongly urge all residents to email or call the city manager and council members and say no to a City Council pay raise.