Raises for Comp­ton mayor, coun­cil will go be­fore vot­ers

Of­fi­cials OK bal­lot mea­sure to amend city char­ter, but crit­ics as­sail the process.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Ben­jamin Oreskes ben­jamin.oreskes @la­times.com

Af­ter a ran­corous spe­cial meet­ing Wed­nes­day, Comp­ton city of­fi­cials voted to let res­i­dents de­cide in Novem­ber whether some of them de­serve a pay raise.

The City Coun­cil met dur­ing what is sup­posed to be a va­ca­tion pe­riod. It was far from re­lax­ing.

While three of the coun­cil mem­bers — Isaac Gal­van, Janna Zu­rita and Tana McCoy — sup­ported the pro­posal, Mayor Aja Brown and Coun­cil­woman Emma Sharif op­posed the mea­sure.

If the mea­sure pre­vails on Nov. 7 and the city’s char­ter is changed, City Coun­cil mem­bers would be el­i­gi­ble to be paid the me­dian house­hold in­come of Comp­ton, which is $43,507 a year.

Cur­rently, City Coun­cil mem­bers and the mayor are paid a salary of $600 a month, or $7,200 a year.

The mayor’s salary would also in­crease to 25% higher than the coun­cil, or $54,384.

The city clerk’s of­fice said that the es­ti­mated cost of the elec­tion would be $107,000 and that there was no ap­pro­pri­a­tion in the bud­get for the ex­pense.

In 2015, the Los Angeles County district at­tor­ney’s of­fice found that the mem­bers of the Comp­ton City Coun­cil had been il­le­gally boost­ing their salaries for years by pay­ing them­selves for com­mis­sion meet­ings that some­times lasted only about a minute. This was a cat­a­lyst for rais­ing the salaries of city of­fi­cials.

Brown called the city char­ter out­dated be­cause when it set salaries decades ago it did not ac­count for in­fla­tion or cost-of-liv­ing in­creases. But she said it was not ap­pro­pri­ate to use a spe­cial ses­sion in Au­gust to de­cide how the doc­u­ment should be changed. Sharif and Brown called for an ad hoc com­mis­sion that would rec­om­mend changes to the city char­ter.

“I’m not say­ing this shouldn’t be ad­dressed…. Let’s up­grade the en­tire city char­ter to where we want it to be in the fu­ture,” Brown said.

She added that city lead­ers should fo­cus on im­prov­ing ser­vices for res­i­dents.

“My first pri­or­ity is meet­ing with the de­part­ments to make sure they could pro­vide ser­vices for my con­stituents,” Brown said. “I can’t un­der­stand why this [rais­ing salaries] is a pri­or­ity.”

Many res­i­dents who spoke dur­ing the meet­ing also com­plained that the coun­cil was putting its own pay above the needs of res­i­dents.

“What hap­pened to ser­vice above self?” Ben­jamin Ho­lifield of the Comp­ton Busi­ness Cham­ber of Com­merce asked.

Ho­lifield called the restora­tion and im­prove­ment of Comp­ton Boule­vard his “passion” but said, “There’s been no changes, and you want more money.”

Sev­eral res­i­dents also said that they did not nec­es­sar­ily dis­agree with the idea of raises but de­cried how it was be­ing en­acted.

“There has been no com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the com­mu­nity what­so­ever,” res­i­dent Su­san Adams said.

Zu­rita, who was the first to re­quest the raise, said she had tried for months to get the coun­cil to con­sider the move.

“Every­thing we do on a reg­u­lar ba­sis de­serves com­pen­sa­tion,” she said. “You want to talk about a Tues­day night job. This is a Mon­day-through-Sun­day job.”

Anne Cu­sack Los Angeles Times

THE L.A. COUNTY district at­tor­ney in 2015 said Comp­ton of­fi­cials were il­le­gally boost­ing their pay for years, spurring a push to raise their $7,200 an­nual salaries.

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