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Underpaid and Overworked? Plan to increase pay of city councilmembers on Newsom’s desk

June 14, 2023

Senate Bill 329 by state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, which is heading to Newsom’s desk, would allow city councils to raise their maximum pay to keep pace with inflation.

Not surprising, the bill passed 71-0

According to Dodd, the bill is designed to “increase the diversity of city council members in California by increasing salaries.”

Don’t residents run for council as a public service for their constituents?

This will be passed by every city council in California as any increases would require a simple majority vote by a council and would be calculated using the California Consumer Price Index.

“No one runs for city council to get rich. But the low levels of pay make it much harder to balance careers and personal obligations with the calling to serve their community,” Dodd said.

True on the rich part, but then they get appointed to as many as ten outside committees and associations and earn money for attendance, as much as $200 per meeting.

“It’s especially hard for working people and those from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said in a news release Tuesday. “By allowing councils to adjust their maximum pay to reflect inflation, my bill will remove barriers to achieving more equitable representation in local government.”

Currently, city council members’ salaries are capped based on the population size of their cities, and the maximum pay hikes set by state law have not increased since 1984.

That means that for cities with fewer than 35,000 people, monthly salaries generally top out at $300, according to Dodd’s office.

Don’t think that applies in Cerritos.

“This is an incredible step toward equitability,” said Rohnert Park Mayor Samantha Rodriguez, who testified in favor of the bill. 

According to data compiled by the Bay Area Equity Atlas, a tool to track racial and economic equity in the region, while white people accounted for 40 percent of the Bay Area’s population in 2021, they held 66 percent of local elected offices.

Additionally, Asian and Pacific Islander and Latino populations together made up about half of the Bay Area’s population but accounted for just 24 percent of local elected officials.

“Many councilmembers get paid minimally, if at all. This can provide opportunity for working people who have had to balance jobs, childcare and school with public service,” Rodriguez said.

Dodd’s office said the bill is supported by the League of California Cities and the NAACP.

Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.