Council salaries

April 24, 1991

A plan by City President Mary Pat Clarke to raise the salaries of City Council members by 24 percent, to $36,000, might make sense if Baltimore had the same number of council members as, say, Baltimore County.

In fact, however, Baltimore city elects 18 council members -- three times the number the county finds necessary to govern a population of similar size. That's why fat pay raises to keep city council salaries in line with those of their county counterparts are a luxury Baltimore simply can't afford.

Yes, we've heard the arguments for higher council salaries -- and they don't hold water. Council jobs are supposed to be part-time posts, not lifetime sinecures. And yes, we are aware some council members in both the city and county have parlayed their positions into full-time careers. But that's a personal choice, and the incentive certainly shouldn't be financial in any case.

Finally, these are tough times in which to justify pay raises for City Council members, when other city employees are being asked to forgo previously negotiated increases in order to balance the budget. Nobody truly believes higher salaries will buy better government, or even attract more qualified candidates.

If the goal is simply to make council service in the city comparable to that in the county, the City Council should consider cutting its membership by a third. The savings would more than make up for salary increases among the remaining council members without further depleting the city treasury.

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