SD Mayor, Council Salaries Targeted for Voter Reform

It's been 14 years since San Diego's mayor and City Council have gotten a pay raise, all because of a strange political setup that city salary commissioners want the voters to change.

Their idea is to link mayoral and council compensation to a percentage of what Superior Court judges make, currently $175,000 a year.

That’s how it’s worked for county supervisors since 1976.

San Diego's mayor is paid $100,000 a year, and council members get $75,000.

Two years ago, that fact prompted a frustrated Bob Ottilie, longtime chairman of the civil service-appointed Salary Setting Commission, to tell reporters: "We have billion-dollar problems with the city that well-run organizations don't have, and that's because of the quality of the folks who have been making the decisions."

That's a harsh assessment if it's just based on the wages San Diego's elected officials are willing to accept.

San Diego’s council pay ranks 9th out of 15 among the nation's largest cities, and 20 percent below the average of $93,000 a year.

The salary commission has recommended substantial increases since 2002.

But the council, which has final say under the charter, always has vetoed them -- even though the raises wouldn't have taken effect until after the members left office.

So commissioners want voters to peg the pay to judges' salaries plus cost-of-living hikes, and are putting the legal and procedural mechanics into a draft initiative aimed at the November ballot.

They’re also recommending several other reforms, which Ottilie outlined during Friday’s recording session for Sunday’s edition of “Politically Speaking."

"Get rid of gifts to the city councilmembers and the mayor,” he said. “The only reason people give gifts is to buy influence or access and that's wrong."

"Car allowance?" I prompted him.

"We give them $800 a month whether they drive or not,” Ottilie noted. “Let's make them get reimbursement for their miles just like you and I do at our job.”


"If you're going to leave city hall, don't cash in on your position. You wait two years until you can lobby."

Another reform in the proposed measure is stripping the council, mayor and city attorney of their free access to the city's skyboxes at Petco Park and Qualcomm Stadium.

Those prime-view, club suites would be put on the open market, with proceeds going to the city treasury.

“Politically Speaking” will air Sunday at 5 p.m. on NBC 7.

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