Voters to decide salary increase for council, mayor

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Citizens will vote on four amendments.

By Nathalie Mora

Voters will decide on four amendments May 9, including one that could increase the pay of San Antonio City Council members and the mayor from an annual honorarium to a full-time salary.

Charter Amendment 2 aims to increase each of the 10 council members’ salaries from $20 per meeting, or about $1,040 a year, to $45,722 annually.

If approved, the mayor’s salary would increase from $4,040 to $61,725. The pay increase becomes effective with the winner of the May 9 mayoral election.

Incumbent Ivy Taylor is running against 13 other candidates, including former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, state Rep. Mike Villarreal and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson.

The city’s budget will provide the funding, and the increases would take effect immediately.

“I think the full-time pay is an excellent idea,” political science Adjunct Elder McCants said.

The current system keeps the average person from running and being involved in local politics, McCants said.

Many council members are small business owners and lawyers who have their own professions, which allows them to serve at a low salary, McCants said.

This creates a scenario where people with non-financial motives run for office, because they know it could benefit their livelihoods or political careers, government Professor Asslan Khaligh said.

“City Council members can legislate law that benefits their business directly or indirectly,” Khaligh said. “The mayor’s office can be a steppingstone to a higher office.”

Both Henry Cisneros and Julian Castro were tapped for the office of secretary of housing and urban development while mayor of San Antonio.

Khaligh said low pay can lead to less accountability.

“If you’re not going to pay someone that much, don’t expect that much from them,” he said.

Khaligh said he believes the city will gain more in the long run by paying the city council and mayor.

Education freshman Jill Gray doesn’t agree with the salary increases.

“The mayor holds more of a ceremonial job,” Gray said. “I don’t believe the mayor holds enough power.”

Council members should get paid more than $20 a meeting, but not a $45,722 annual salary, she said.

“They already have other full-time jobs,” Gray said. “They already have money.”

Charter Amendment 1 prohibits any streetcar or light rail project without approval of San Antonio voters.

Voters should be able to decide whether they want a light rail project in their city, Khaligh said.

An election will make things more democratic, and the people will decide if a streetcar or light rail system is what this city needs, Khaligh said.

It’s important because this city has a part-time city council that only meets once a week, he said.

“We should be able to vote on something like that, because in my opinion it’s not a necessity,” liberal arts freshman Sabrina Paredes said.

Paredes rides the VIA bus every day, and she doesn’t see the need for another transportation system.

Charter Amendment 3 aims to create a policy for vacancies in the mayor’s office and city council.

If a vacancy occurs with more than 120 days remaining in the term of the mayor or city council members, a special election will fill the vacancy.

If fewer than 120 days remain in the term, the City Council will appoint an individual to the vacant seat.

“Democracy in practice is always a good thing,” McCants said.

Currently, the City Council appoints someone to the vacant position without a special election.

This happened when Castro left the mayor’s office in July and the council appointed Ivy Taylor, then representing District 2, to finish his term.

Charter Amendment 4 eliminates language in the city charter that is outdated or superseded by state law.

“When we look at the city charter, we see things that are no longer applicable and are not useful,” Khaligh said.

“Keeping things relevant is always a good idea,” McCants said.

All four amendments will be available on the ballot 7 a.m-7 p.m. May 9 and during early voting April 27-May 5.

The ballot also includes mayoral candidates and propositions to protect the Edwards Aquifer and the development of linear parks around the city.

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