Me thinks they doth protest too much.
The City of Kelowna has one of the best ways of handling the thorny issue of council remuneration.
Every three years, just before the municipal election, a committee of local residents is struck to come up with recommendations about how much the next council should be paid. Despite the fact the final decision still lies with the people who, if re-elected, will get the potential raise, it’s about as arm’s length as you can get.
But at its meeting Monday, council appeared to pull in that arm by using a public forum to plead its case for more, despite having—and in some cases taking—the opportunity to do the same in private before the committee recommended a two-year pay freeze.
At Monday’s meeting, councillors repeatedly said it was not about the money. But you know what they say about folks who claim it’s not about they money? More often than not, it is.
Councillors want you to know how hard they work. I covered Kelowna city council for 10 years and can vouch for them. Most work hard, put in long hours and treat the job as much more than part-time. Even when they are not working, by the very fact they live in the community, are available to anyone who sees them in a grocery store and wants to talk about city issues—they’re working.
But the fact remains, for the purposes of remuneration, in Kelowna the mayor’s job is considered full-time and the councillors’ jobs are considered part-time. If council doesn’t like that, it should change the classification and pay scale accordingly —and see how that sits with residents.
In Kelowna, the mayor is currently paid $87,902 and each councillor received $30,756 plus an extra $350 for each month they serve as deputy mayor. One third of the salary is tax free. Councillors get cell phones, computers, office space and administrative support to help with city business. All this on top of outside, full-time jobs for several of them.
And to make matters more lucrative, six of the eight councillors and the mayor sit on the regional district board and get another $14,000 per year for that duty. One third of that is also tax-free.
But when the remuneration committee recommended a two-year pay freeze, all hell broke loose at City Hall. A two-hour discussion resulted in council tabling the issue until more information is gathered about what other councillors elsewhere make.
But their public chest-thumping is likely to land flat with a public who has no current appetite for paying politicians more.
Council had the right approach to dealing with the remuneration issue, one that has worked well in the past. Messing with it now just makes them look greedy.
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor