Look­ing for help for a fair wage

Calgary Sun - - COMMENT -

The never-end­ing de­bate about how Cal­gary tax­pay­ers’ money is spent can cre­ate ugly be­hav­iour at city hall.

It es­pe­cially gets in­ter­est­ing when the discussion at coun­cil turns to their com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages.

Now de­ter­min­ing the worth of your own work is a tricky mat­ter. Hard to get con­sen­sus for a pub­licly funded role — es­pe­cially when that same pub­lic likely has a jaun­diced view of politi­cians.

City coun­cil set out to seem­ingly deal with that bet­ter with a five-mem­ber cit­i­zen com­mit­tee to de­ter­mine fair com­pen­sa­tion.

Panel mem­bers — sport­ing back­grounds in law, hu­man re­sources and busi­ness — spent seven months com­ing up with rec­om­men­da­tions, and re­viewed com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages in other sim­i­larly sized mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

At the time, panel chair Peter Bowel said the vol­un­teers drove to city hall for meet­ings that were then can­celled, paid out of their own pock­ets for city doc­u­ments to help them in their task, and en­dured the “mind­numb­ing, picayune rules of city com­mit­tees.”

None­the­less, that in­de­pen­dent cit­i­zen com­mit­tee was a fair way to come at it — or at least as fair as it could be, given the ask.

Un­for­tu­nately, they were not treated fairly. At a rather ac­ri­mo­nious meet­ing in May (not at­tended by Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi), that com­mit­tee rec­om­mended the $212,870 salary given to the mayor should be cut by $12,123, and that will take ef­fect af­ter next month’s elec­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, coun­cil­lors accused the panel of bias, and de­cided ad­just­ments to coun­cil’s pay will con­tinue to be based on changes to the av­er­age Al­berta weekly earn­ings — re­ject­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion they vote an­nu­ally to ac­cept or de­cline the mod­i­fi­ca­tion, as well as re­ject­ing an elim­i­na­tion of gen­er­ous tran­si­tional al­lowances. Coun­cil­lors did agree on a freeze to their $113,416 salaries for 2018.

Fast for­ward to this week, when Coun. Diane Col­ley-Urquhart brought for­ward a mo­tion ask­ing her col­leagues to once again back an in­de­pen­dent re­view of how coun­cil pay is de­ter­mined.

Seems sen­si­ble — just not for this coun­cil, as they voted it down.

Here are some com­ments from Coun. Druh Far­rell:

“I’m not con­vinced the cur­rent process is bro­ken,” says Far­rell, adding she felt dis­re­spect went both ways. “We need to put some en­ergy into ap­point­ing the right peo­ple and most pre­pared peo­ple.” The right peo­ple? Seem­ingly, we know what kind of “vol­un­teer” they might be seek­ing.

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