The council was considering whether to raise its monthly stipend by 10%, an action that affects the stipends for the council seated after today’s election.
Councilwoman Kathy Narum, who is termed out, objected to the 5% annual raise because it was more than the council was giving to staff members. Councilman Jack Balch, in a safe seat, was concerned because it also did not deal with benefits such as health care that council members receive. In years well past, health benefits were not a big deal—not so today when they easily run more than $1,000 monthly.
That said, we’re talking stipends, not salaries. With the 10% increase that three council members (Brown, Julie Testa and Valerie Arkin) approved, the mayor will receive $1,421.92 and council members will receive $1,321.92 (the mayor’s stipend is $100 more monthly which gives you a hint about when these were approved.).
Brown said during the meeting, "I know I'm worth it and I'm worth a lot more than this. I'm surprised and disappointed by council members who want to make this political."
I’m not going to debate whether she’s worth it. All opinions are welcome. What’s important is that councilmembers volunteer to run for office and know what the “compensation” is before they submit their candidacy papers.
It’s public service and it’s also the power to try and impose your vision for what the city should be. Testa, for instance, has battled at the local and statewide level to maintain local control regardless of the huge housing shortage in Pleasanton and the Bay Area in general. Over the last decade plus—before the current spate of expected tech layoffs take place—new jobs grew at a 4-1 rate over new housing units. The housing shortfall is obvious—that said the state requirement to zone for nearly 6,000 new units over the next eight years—about a 33% increase in housing—is likely over-the-top.
Back to hours “on the job.” I’ve been at this for many years and have been fortunate to cover a variety of people in mayoral and council roles. The late Bob Butler was mayor of Pleasanton during the critical years that Hacienda Business Park and three other major parks were considered in the early 1980s. He worked full-time for General Electric, which expected its eight-hour day. He balanced those 40 hours with city council responsibilities and his music hobby with the Livermore-Amador Symphony and may have been the best single council member I have observed. In Livermore, his fellow GE employee, John Stein, did the same.
So, on this election day, I’m not shedding any tears for Mayor Brown. Mine are reserved for the loss of gifted musician and all-around good guy Don Lewis who passed Sunday. He had been seriously ill for months. Don was one of the people who brightened your day whenever you encountered him. I will miss his bright smile and upbeat persona. My sympathies to his wife Julie.