Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has announced that she will not seek re-election, as has Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes. Already, candidates for those jobs, and challengers for other aldermanic seats, are jockeying for position in preparation for official campaign launches in late September. The elections take place April 4, 2017, and a new Council and Mayor will be seated, and the City’s Clerk will take office shortly thereafter.
At the Aug. 15 City Council meeting, aldermen voted to hike the Mayor’s compensation from $20,556 to $25,317 per year with no cost of living or other increases during the coming term. For now, however, City Council has not decided how much compensation the aldermen and clerk will receive.
The matter was held again at the request of Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, “until we have a full Council present.” Three of the nine aldermen were absent Monday night, and two of the six present, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, spoke against the increase proposed by the City’s Compensation Committee.
In recent meetings, Ald. Rainey has repeatedly called aldermanic compensation unfair, pointing to the disparity in the amount of health-care benefits different aldermen receive. At the Aug. 8 Rules Committee meeting, she said, “There’s no way to say it’s fair and equitable.” One alderman receives $34,000 in health-care benefits, while another gets $17,000, she said at the time. “I believe our compensation should be equal. … We ought to be treated equally across the board. That’s my argument,” she said.
Ald. Rainey said her insurance benefit costs the City about $6,600 a year while others, like Ald. Miller, take no insurance benefits at all.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, agreed with Ald. Rainey – to a point. “We didn’t make this mess,” he said. “It is unequal, and it is unfair. But it is hard to figure out how to fix it.”
The matter stalled in the Rules Committee, however, with the Committee declining to address the health-care benefit issue. Instead, the Committee forwarded the Compensation Committee’s recommendations to the full Council, including a pay bump for aldermen from the current $12,990 per year to $15,990 in the coming term. Like the mayor, aldermen will not receive any cost of living or other increases during the coming four-year term – compensation will remain flat.
As for the clerk, the Compensation Committee recommended an increase tied to the increase received by non-union City employees. Clerk Rodney Greene, who did not attend the Aug. 15 meeting, asked that the matter be held until the Sept. 12 meeting, and Council agreed. Clerk Greene has spoken against the implication that the City is treating an elected official as an “employee” and argued that the pay scale violates the state law requiring compensation to be firmly established prior to an elected official’s taking office.