Free wheeling Mission Viejo council majority votes to double their compensation

I guess our city council members believe that residents of Mission Viejo live in a bell jar without access to newspapers, computers or TV sets.
As I anticipated, at around 11 p.m. tonight, the Mission Viejo city council majority just voted 4-1, (with conservative member Gail Reavis voting no), to double their stipend from $500 per month to $1,000 per month.  Who cares about the sky falling around us. Who cares about the economy We deserve a raise!  One of us lost an upper level management position at Intel, a Fortune 100 company, while another lost a cushy executive job at UCI and is starting over.

On the surface you might argue that this “chump change” $500 per month stipend, that has been in existence since our 1988 cityhood, deserves to be adjusted. There’s only one problem with that argument. Only one of the current city council members has been in office for more than eight years and he is termed  out in 2010.  Furthermore they ran for office knowing full well that this job is a part time public service position paying $500 per month not including compensation for representing the city as a committee representative at various meetings for which they also receive a minor stipend along with mileage reimbursement. Furthermore they are eligible for optional medical benefits which currently are around $825 for regular city employees. That perk is not common in the other OC cities.

The justification for this increase is that, according to state law, we can adjust said compensation by 5% per year based on our population. As we became a city on March 31, 1988 we have existed for 20 years without an increase.

When it suits our Agenda we “benchmark” against other Orange County cities. OK. Let’s do just that. Let’s begin by acknowledging that we are a “contract” city which in simple terms is that we DO NOT have our own police or fire departments. Nor do we have our own landscape crews or crews maintaining street lamps or traffic signals, etc.  Mission Viejo’s bloated staffing is at 150 with an annual budget of around $60 million.

Let’s compare those numbers Vs Santa Ana where their city council members are paid $125 per month. Is that correct or a typo?

Santa Ana has its own police and fire departments. The city employs 1753 with an annual budget of $570 million.
Let’s look at another large OC City. Irvine has just over 200,000 residents. Their council members are paid $800 per month while managing a budget of $588 million. Like Santa Ana, Irvine has it’s own police and fire departments as part of their 710 employees.
My last benchmark would be the city of Fullerton where their council members earn $750 per month. Like my other illustrations, Fullerton has its own police and fire departments whose staffing is included in their total of 810 employees. Their annual budget is $588 million dollars.

While many may argue that $500 or even $1,000 per month is an unrealistic stipend, every elected official has his or her eyes wide open when filing to run for these positions. Many of our full time statewide elected officials began on the lower rung of elected office such as city councils where they cut their teeth. As such the modest stipend is not the issue. Serving on a city council becomes a launching pad for many individuals seeking higher offices at the state level and beyond.

Juice readers. What’s your thoughts on part time city council member compensation?

About Larry Gilbert