"Most people agree, at least those who are aware of the council's duties, that the councilmember's job should be considered full-time," says McLaughlin. The city charter makes no distinction between full-time and part-time for councilmembers; it only lists a councilmember's annual pay: $18,000. The council president makes $40,000.
McLaughlin believes councilmembers' pay should better reflect their workload, and her colleagues agree. On Monday, they approved her proposal to create an independent, five-member Salary Review Commission, whose job will be to review council duties and salaries and adjust the compensation, if needed.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Al French says his colleagues' workload has increased since the city moved to a strong mayor system. "We didn't know what the effect would be on the council," he says, "but it's turned out to be an incredible amount of work with little or no staff to help us."
"We're the only people authorized for less than minimum wage," jokes Councilman Bob Apple.
McLaughlin's ordinance requires the mayor to nominate the committee's members, the city's ethics commission to check the applicants for potential conflicts-of-interest and the city council to confirm them. The new committee's salary recommendations are due by May 31 and will become law unless a referendum is filed to nullify them. The new salaries would be paid, beginning January 2009, and only to new members. Members in the middle of their terms would stay at the same level until after they're re-elected.