The second of two ballot measures Colorado Springs voters will decide in April’s election would increase pay for city Council members to $48,000. It would be a big increase for them, but as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, even some vocal opponents of the measure say Council members may be underpaid.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

City councilors in Denver earn $78,000 a year. El Paso County commissioners make more than that. But Colorado Springs Council members earn just over $6000 a year.

Outgoing Councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko says the public sees the job as mere volunteer work. But it usually takes more than 40 hours a week and the duties range from passing laws to hiring for key positions. Czelatdko also notes they oversee Colorado Springs Utilities and its billion dollar budget.

“We also, in our legislative role, appropriate and approve the city budget, which is a $250 million budget. These aren’t volunteer-type responsibilities.”

Councilors have discussed pay proposals in the past, but this one came from a group of young professionals, led by 36-year-old Tony Gioia.

“It definitely was not their idea. We, as a group of young professionals, brought it before council to request that they put it on the ballot because we feel that it will help to increase the diversity of candidates moving forward who can then run for council later, including young professionals who typically need to earn a salary in order to support their families, pay the mortgages and such.”

Gioia says the idea started with Mayor Steve Bach, who challenged them at a business luncheon to think of ways to get their generation involved in city government.

“Council pay specifically was something that he thought young professionals could grab a hold of and really run forward, looking to get that pay increased.”

Mayor Bach, though, does not support this ballot measure. Bach says he challenged the young professionals to “reinvent city Council” looking for ways to make it “more effective, efficient and satisfying.”

“And so in that context I said: ‘The last piece of that is compensation but it needs to go with what’s the role and what’s the responsibility.’ They came forward with simply the salary with nothing tied to it. I support higher pay for city council but not a random number that is not tied to any performance standards.”

The mayor says pay should be addressed during a charter review that also considers whether council should continue to govern Utilities, among other possible changes. He says he’s not sure what the appropriate salary is but that it could actually be more than $48,000.

Angela Dougan was one of four council members who opposed putting the measure on the ballot. She says supporters should have gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot on their own.

“I felt strongly that this is a pay raise for council. Council shouldn’t have their hands anywhere near it. They should not be touching it any way shape or form.”

She and her main challenger in the election, Joel Miller, are both against the measure. But like him, Dougan says she sees merit in the goal.

“I’ll be honest. I got a little convinced. I sort of thought, ‘No, no. We don’t need a pay raise. We’re fine.’ And I did talk to a lot of people and they did say, ‘You guys work very hard. You work for many hours.'”

The ballot measure would set council pay at one half of the mayor’s salary and give them employee benefits, too. It wouldn’t take effect until 2015, so proponent Tony Gioia says the councilors who put it on the ballot would have to get re-elected to receive the increase themselves. His group had raised less than $900 as of last week, including a $400 donation from John Weiss, publisher of The Independent. No group has registered to defeat the measure.

 

Comments are closed.

News

AFP/Getty Images
June 28, 2017 | NPR · Cardinal George Pell, a key adviser to Pope Francis, has been ordered to appear in a Melbourne court next month. The Archdiocese of Sydney says he will return from Rome to fight the charges.
 

AP
June 28, 2017 | NPR · The charges against the agent were brought amid lingering animosity over the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest restrictions on use of federal lands.
 

Getty Images
June 28, 2017 | NPR · The curiously named submersible wrapped up its inaugural voyage last week. And, as the British Antarctic Survey noted Wednesday, Boaty acquitted itself well on the seven-week expedition.
 

Arts & Life

June 28, 2017 | NPR · Michael Bond, creator of the beloved Paddington Bear books, died Tuesday at 91. The classic children’s book character is a scruffy little bear prone to accidents, but he means well.
 

June 28, 2017 | FA · Director Edgar Wright rejects computer-generated unreality and instead focuses on breathtaking driving in his new heist thriller. Critic David Edelstein says the result is terrifically entertaining.
 

AP
June 28, 2017 | NPR · “Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform” — and readers first met Paddington with those words in 1958. Bond, who died Tuesday, turned that bear into an unforgettable friend.
 

Music

WXPN
June 28, 2017 | WXPN-FM · While making City Music, Morby looked to Lou Reed’s legacy for the confidence to experiment. He tells World Cafe about the album and the role New York has played in his story.
 

Courtesy of the artist
June 28, 2017 | NPR · There’s more to this roots-music business than high-energy dance tunes. Kick back with some soothing voices and some free-spirited instrumentals.
 

Mountain Stage
June 28, 2017 | NPR · Hear the blues-folk musician’s soulful, gravelly thunder return to Mountain Stage at the Culture Center Theater in West Virginia.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab