Let Lakewood Vote
In January 2011, I attended both special council meetings to discuss increasing the salaries/compensation of our Mayor and Council members. At these meetings, members of the Council discussed several ideas, concerns, and thoughts regarding their possible decision to increase the salaries/compensation of our Mayor and Council members. At the end of both meetings, there was a period for public comments.
At both meetings I stood up and stated the following concerns:
- Our financial position in Lakewood is not exactly on solid ground. We are currently in a recession in which the city has had to layoff numerous employees, cut back hours and reduce worker salaries. Looking forward, the state has indicated that it will be cutting aid to Lakewood on both the city budget (worst-case scenario $2 million) and school budget (worst-case scenario $3 million) in an effort to balance its budget. Given this negative financial outlook, is it prudent to be raising politicians’ salaries without a vote of the people?
- The financial position of Lakewood residents is not on solid ground, as we are still dealing with layoffs, lower salaries and higher taxes (school board taxes just started hitting).
- Three of the politicians (the Mayor and 2 council members) ultimately voting on this resolution to increase their own salary/compensation were not elected to their current positions.
I then stated that:
- By statute, the increases in salaries/compensation do not take effect until January 1, 2012--after our November elections.
- The voters already have to approve many ordinances/resolutions impacting us financially. Therefore, we are already able to vote on financial matters that impact us.
- No politician should ever have the ability to raise his/her own salary/compensation without a vote of the people he/she serves.
Given the above, I requested that if the Council was going to approve an increase, they put final approval to a vote of the residents of Lakewood in the upcoming November elections. It seemed a simple common-sense request to me and, given the current political climate of fiscal concerns, transparency concerns, and the high number of officials turned out as unresponsive to the concerns of the people, I expected the request to be approved.
Unfortunately, it was not. At both council meetings, I was informed by members of the Council that the city charter gave them the “duty” and “authority” to set the salaries of the Mayor and Council and as such they did not need to put this before the people of Lakewood. They also indicated that the city charter had been voted on by the people and therefore the people previously had a say in the matter. They further informed me that there was a process I could follow if I wanted to get this proposal before the people. In both meetings, I indicated that I was aware of the process to propose an ordinance but that I hoped they would consider the ordinance on their own. They did not.
Therefore, I am proposing to present to the Council the following ordinance:
Voter Approval of Increases In The Compensation Of The Mayor And Members Of The Council
“Be it ordained by the people of the City of Lakewood that any ordinance or resolution which increases the compensation for the Mayor or for the Members of Council shall not take effect until Council submits such ordinance or resolution to the electorate at a regular Municipal or general election occurring more than 60 days after the passage of the ordinance or resolution, and such ordinance or resolution is approved by a majority of the electors voting thereon in the City. The increase in compensation for the Mayor or for the Members of Council shall not be increased during the term in which any change in compensation is made.”
Before anyone tries to paint this proposed ordinance as an effort against any increase in the salaries of the Mayor/Council, which have not increased in 20+ years, I want to be clear. The proposed ordinance has nothing to do with whether or not the salaries/compensation should be increased. It is only a question of whether or not you believe one thing: that no politician should be allowed to set his/her own salary/compensation without voter approval.
To put this common sense ordinance before the council, we need to collect 516 petition signatures (5% of the voters in the last mayoral election) on our petition. If you would like more information or are willing to help collect the needed petition signatures, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact your Council member directly and let them know how you feel on this issue.
Of course, if any council member has a change of heart and would like to put this ordinance before the council and voters in November, he/she is welcome to save us the time and effort and do so. I would also ask that the mayor agree to put the mayoral salary raise recently approved by the council on the November ballot for approval by the voters of Lakewood. I believe this is in line with his comments at both council meetings I attended.