Part-time council seats pay about $105/hour plus benefits

Four of seven part-time council seats in University Heights will be on the November ballot. The job description includes attending 20 scheduled council meetings a year, and forming council committees.   

The terms of four councilmen will end Dec. 31. Their starting salary in 2008 was $8,100 plus benefits. They will end with $8,900 plus benefits, a 9.87 percent increase in pay.

That comes to $445 plus benefits for each council meeting this year. In 2010, records show that the four were absent for a combined total of 12 council meetings, an average of three each.

Documenting their attendance at committee meetings is a bit of a challenge since only a handful of minutes are public. In our form of government, councilmen meet in committees to prepare what they will bring to council for a vote.

It is in the public committees where citizens see councilmen discussing, considering, evaluating, proposing, negotiating and formulating the future well-being of our city. Council minutes for 2010 show that only 10 committee meetings took place. The seven committees averaged less than 1.5 meetings each. 

Without minutes, we don’t know who attended meetings. Assume they each attended at least two of their own meetings (round up from 1.5). So if we add 20 council + 2 committee meetings, we have a total of 22 meetings. 

To allow for any undocumented meetings, let’s assume all were present. For 22 meetings at the 2010 salary of $8,700 plus benefits, the four earned $395.45 plus benefits per meeting.

How much did they earn on an hourly basis? Assume council meetings last about 2 hours, committee meetings 1 hour for a total of 42 hours. In 2010, our four councilmen earned only $207.14 an hour plus benefits.

“But surely,” you say, “they must prepare for meetings, they don’t just show up?” OK, assume our four councilmen work as many hours outside of public meetings as they do at public meetings. 

They can read the $83,000 worth of studies we paid for. They can hold regularly scheduled office hours at city hall to hear from residents. Or, they can write minutes. Adding additional work lowers their 2010 hourly rate to only $103.57 an hour plus benefits. Or, $105.95 an hour plus benefits at the 2011 rate.

So, are you interested in a part-time council job? I know exactly what you are going to say. You think you do not have the “smarts.” After covering council for years, and hearing your views, and the views of hundreds of fellow citizens, I can honestly say, you do.”    

Some issues are complex, for anyone. UH withheld making a required $2 million TIF payment, a legal obligation. This fact was known to our four councilmen in 2008. Yet, they neglected to act on it; two are attorneys and another chairs the finance committee. 

Most issues are routine; read a few minutes for yourself. Go to www.universityheights.com, click on Public Notices, then Minutes.

Are you interested in a unified city? Our charter says councilmen are to be at-large, to represent the city’s best interest, not the best interest of an ethnic, geographical, racial or religious segment of the city. 

Are you interested in being fair to all residents as a whole? Our charter also says councilmen are to be nonpartisan. Creating an “us and them” mentality by introducing political party-affiliation bias into our city government is not desirable.

Council will have to decide on the zoning study, backyard garbage pick-up, collaboration issues and numerous agenda items that have languished since 2008. 

Council would also be wise to include citizens in the process when significant change is considered. Read what residents told council in the 9/2/2008 minutes. They advised council against rushing charter review without providing opportunity for citizen input. Council did not listen and voters turned down the proposed change in government.

If council returns to citizen participation and talks to residents, it will know what we, as a city, want. It would make the job of council member easier. Yes, this can be done part-time. We need four citizens with common sense and ordinary intelligence, who can manage a household budget and make decisions in the community’s best interest.    

Anita Kazarian

Anita Kazarian is a marketing professional, founder of Noah's Landing, LLC and a longtime resident of UH. Contact her at anitakazarian@gmail.com.

Read More on University Heights
Volume 4, Issue 7, Posted 10:52 PM, 07.03.2011