DISCLAIMER: The following commentary is not spoken on behalf of the current City Council. Today’s Market Report is my opinion only and not reflective of any conversation I’ve had with any co-councilor.
Our Council, (as with all previous Councils), assumes corporate brilliance. However, after 6 months on the job I can state without equivocation, “being an elected city Councilor is not a part-time job.” It’s likely that only someone like Padre Pio could effectively serve as a board member of a multi-billion dollar corporation on a part-time basis. We either need to downsize the responsibilities of Council or we need to buck-up and pay for full-time councilors. There’s an old North Dakota farmer’s axiom – you get what you pay for. We pay for part-time. How does that make sense?
So you can understand some basics (City Council 101), I’ve outlined the qualification and duties of the respective offices of Council and Mayor:
City Councilor Qualification:
You must be a citizen of the USA, at least 25 years old and have lived in Colorado Springs for at least 1 year prior to the election. There is no proficiency test for office. This is a prescription for government at the lowest possible denominator. (See the US House of Representatives for additional reference.)
3 Basic Roles of Councilors
- Councilors make the laws
- This includes appropriation of funds for the Mayor’s budget
- By the way, this is a big deal!
- Councilors act in a quasi judicial capacity as judge in land use cases
- Councilors approve or disapprove utility rate increases
- 4th unstated role is spokesperson for a Councilor’s constituency
Here’s a simple understanding of a Councilor’s basic duties
- Council makes the laws
- Council is maintains a strategic plan which prioritizes goals for the City Council
- Council provides an annual “Report to the Citizens”
- Council appoints the City Auditor
- Council approves or disapproves personnel policies and procedures for city employees
Paragraph 13-20 (b) of the city charter says Councilors “shall receive an annual stipend of $6,250”
- The Mayor is the Chief Executive of the city.
- His job is to enforce all the laws enacted by City Council. He can’t hold any other job. He’s full-time.
- He’s supposed to develop a strategic plan that prioritizes goals for the City
- He prepares the city’s annual budget
- He supposed to deliver semi-annual reports to the citizens (positive or negative)
- He can fire almost any City employee, except utilities and health system employees
- He appoints a Chief of Staff
- He appoints City Attorney, Municipal Judges, Chief Financial Officer, Police Chief, Fire Chief, all department heads
- Subject to Council’s final approval)
- He supervises all departments
- He is paid $96,000 per year plus benefits for his full-time employment
Colorado Springs has 2 branches of government (legislative and executive) which provide appropriate checks and balances. Given the tasks are similarly equal everyone should receive similarly equal pay. That the mayor is prohibited by charter from holding outside employment only codifies the obvious. He can’t be effective if he is not focused. Why would we expect less from the Legislators?
Councilors, to be similarly effective as the Mayor, commit similarly to full-time employment. Ergo, if we agree the Mayor’s pay is fair and commensurate with his duties, Councilors should be treated as fairly and compensated similarly. If the Mayor earns $96,000 plus benefits so should Councilors.