Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Creating a two-tier (part time vs. full time) salary structure for elected officials

Monday's Washington Post has an article, "Arlington County board chair floats trial balloon on pay raise for lawmakers," where the Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey suggests a significant salary raise for that county's elected officials, because the job, at least for her, is more than full time. From the article:
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) said she wants to discuss raising — and possibly doubling — pay for elected board members, because the job requires “more than full time” hours.

Garvey said in an interview that she would support “something on the order” of matching board pay more closely to the median family income in the county, which is $110,900. Board members are currently paid $51,480, and the chairman receives $56,629 per year; the board last raised its own pay in 2012.

“This is more than a full-time job, with more than one event practically every night, board meetings that go late into the night and weekend appearances,” said Garvey, who manages real estate part time and has become known on the board for questioning major capital spending.
In Arlington, two board members work full time on their jobs as elected officials, while the three other members have other jobs.

Arlington County's legislative branch officials make significantly less money for their work compared to most of their peers across the metropolitan area. According to the article:
Washington, which acts as both a city and state, pays full-time council members $134,852 per year; the council chair makes $190,000. Fairfax County, the biggest local government by population, pays its board chair $100,000 and board members $95,000. Montgomery County pays council members $128,519 and the council president about $141,000.

The city of Alexandria, with about 150,000 residents, pays its part-time council members $27,500 and its mayor $30,500.
In DC, technically Councilmember positions are part-time, even though they are paid very well, and some Councilmembers have outside income.  Outside income can be a significant problem, because it creates the potential for conflict over whose interests are being represented when voting--even if the Councilmember chooses not to vote on particular matters involving outside interests.

In the past, I have suggested reducing DC Councilmember salaries, because they are allowed to have outside employment, but instead of forcing members to either have other jobs or to work full time, why not offer a choice, with a significant difference in salaries, by creating a two tier salary structure, for "full-time" and "part-time" elected officials.

Elected officials choosing to continue with outside work should be paid the lower salary.  And unlike DC, the "part-time" salary should be set at a rate significantly lower than the amount, $134,852, that it is today.

Recommendation 1:  Create a two-tiered salary structure for DC's legislative branch.  Arlington should consider a similar action.

Recommendation 2:  For DC, set the part-time salary significantly lower than the current amount of $134,852.

Recommendation 3:  For both DC and Arlington, require elected officials to make a choice between taking a full time or part time salary, where those members choosing to take outside jobs are paid the lower salary.

State legislatures.   could be extended to State Legislatures as well.  Both Virginia and Maryland have part-time legislatures, which means they have "part-time" salaries too.  This means that they have other jobs, which is intended to keep them grounded in their communities.

At about $18,000/year, Virginia representatives make significantly less than Maryland representatives, who make about $43,500/year.

On the other hand, only certain kinds of jobs and levels of household wealth lend themselves to this kind of household income structure, likely meaning a significantly less diverse group of people serving as legislators, because many people won't choose to run, because they may not be able to work a second job, may prefer to work full time as a legislator, etc.

You could create a two tiered salary structure for such legislatures too, where people choosing to work full time as legislators could be paid more in salary than those with outside income.

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At 12:53 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

You probably missed in the new proposed "DC" constitution that it wants to expand the "legislative" branch to 21 members -- all the current salaries.

Arlington's salaries are low - but they used to be lower in the recent past. I remember 10 years ago they were in the 23K a year range.

(I'd rather see in DC a small stipend (maybe 3000 a year) go to ANC members).

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I agree with the stipend for ANC commissioners.

2. WRT "21 legislators", the Constitutional stuff has been half-assed. I haven't been too concerned or interested in weighing in other than a blog post or two because it's not like the effort is going to go anywhere. I am still suspect as to the "why now?" motivation.

As you know I think we should have 2 councilmembers per ward. Whether or not to make wards a little smaller, and have say 11 total wards is another issue. Probably can't afford to do both.

I think the DC Councilmember salary is a bit high. It is one of the highest in the US. It's definitely way too high for those who take outside employment.


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