Arguments in Support of Increase City Council Compensation are Flawed.
The GNP reported in an article titled “Glendale council members discuss ballot measures C” statements of council members in favor of increasing council pay.
In particular, multiple council members express the opinion that more pay will “result in more residents running for council who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it” and “The end result is a council who is not representative of the residents of the city.”
This viewpoint seems to have even impressed the GNP editorial staff when considering measure C and was reiterated in the GNP analysis for endorsing a yes on C.
The barrier for entry to a council position is not council pay and to argue otherwise is contrary to the realty on the ground and out of touch with the general public they are elected to serve. In fact they do a disservice to the well meaning Glendalian who out of civic duty may decide to run for office. A higher paying council position is nothing but a mirage that is unattainable to the average Glendalian for the factors stated below.
Factors that are most deterministic to a successful candidate are a combination of: Personal or family wealth; and long term political or social involvement in political or social organizations.
Long gone are the days where the average citizen can run for office and get elected based on ideas or principles. Dreams and aspirations for what is best for Glendale are worthless unless a candidate has the ability to raise over $100k to advertise her name and all their endorsements. Candidates often loan their own campaign $40k – $50k or have sufficient circle of friends who are not living from paycheck to paycheck to support their political ambitions.
Council members who believe that a Glendalian living on a median household income of $54,000 will be able to loan their campaign $40k and get their neighbors, also living from paycheck to paycheck, to contribute to his campaign will suddenly be motivated to run for city council AND WIN because an increase in pay are out of touch with the public they serve.
The reason why the vast majority of council members live north of the 134 is because that part of Glendale has a higher household income level and higher citizen participation in the political process due to their disposable income. This is not an epiphany that this writer has suddenly become aware of. Wealth and politics go hand in hand and that is a reality of life. But to say that a higher council pay will encourage average Glendalians to run for office and have a better representation is a fiction, a false hope, that does nothing for the average Glendalian but lays the ground for sitting council members to make their career a profitable profession as opposed to public service.
We live in a political system that encourages and expects reciprocal favors in exchange of endorsements and benefits. Voters are encouraged to look at the endorsements garnered in this election by the candidates and published by the GNP and compare that with prior election endorsements or the next upcoming election endorsement. You will invariably be able to predict who will endorse who in the upcoming election or why a particular candidate was endorsed by whom at this election.
When invited to candidate interviews you are not explored for your ideas on topics, but tested and probed on the scope and effectiveness of your campaign. Most organizations want to endorse the expected winning candidate and will abundantly advertise after the fact that the winning candidates’ success was dependent on their endorsement.
To get into this circle of endorsement and political connection requires involvement in different organization over EXTENDED period of time. Council members who believe that a Glendalian living on a median household income of $54,000 has the financial luxury to afford in getting involved in social and political organization with the hopes and aspiration of someday 4 to 5 years later running for city council AND WINNING are again out of touch with the average Glendalian.
In a system that encourages reciprocal endorsement of candidates, increasing council pay only secures a better pay for the current council members and the select few up and coming candidates in the ranks of the reciprocal endorsement club. It does nothing to increase the prospects of an average Glendalian of winning a city council position. But cements a handsome pay for the elite few who have the financial resources to organize a campaign that can raise in excess of $100k and the financial flexibility to forgo employment in exchange for long term political or social involvement.
The GNP analysis in accepting the sitting council’s argument that a yes on “C” would encourage more to run was flawed for the reasons stated above.
Finally council members have suddenly developed “Mixed feelings” and are not “pushing hard” or are indifferent about measure C as stated in candidate forums. One would have never felt this indifference the day this measure was discussed during council meeting and subsequently placed on the ballot.
On hindsight, I think I should have added one more factor that determines a successful Glendale city council candidate. One that has the uncanny ability to scan public opinion on issues and subsequently bend arguments to fall in line with the most politically viable for re-election.