Pay It Forward, City Council

Mayor Gregor Robinson lost no time pushing for a pay raise for himself and city councillors. The same day they were sworn in, he called for an independent review of the benefits and salaries council members receive.

In my opinion, our city council is actually well paid.

One of the few good things I can say about Gordon Campbell is that when he was mayor, he started pegging city councillors’ salaries to what the average full-time Vancouver worker earned, as determined by Statistics Canada.

Communicating with the people who elected you has always been part of the job. Does this really merit a paycheque increase for our Mayor and Council?

Communicating with the people who elected you has always been part of the job. Does this really merit a paycheque increase for our Mayor and Council?

That’s what the city has stuck to for years. But now, apparently, the mayor feels this is inadequate, citing the extra work load he and city councillors now have to carry, which, according to the mayor, seems mostly to do with communications — email, social media and, I quote, “more engagement in the neighbourhoods.”

Last time I checked, communicating with the people who elected you has always been part of the job.

Let me share two little stories.

On my first day on council in 1999, one of City Hall’s IT reps came by and asked me if I wanted my computer set up the same way all the other councillors had theirs, so that no email addressed to “Mayor and Council” would ever land in my in-box. It would be programmed so I’d never receive it. The idea was if the email wasn’t addressed to me individually, I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

I said, not on your life! Of course, I want to get those emails addressed to “Mayor and Council” — I’m a member of council.

In the six years I was on council, even though I had a full-time job, I was the only person who answered every email and letter that was addressed to “Mayor and Council” as well as the ones sent to me individually.

I don’t know if that’s still the case, but the point is answering emails is simply part of the job. As for tracking social media and tweeting, well, that’s up to each person, isn’t it?

But the sharper thorn here is if Mayor and Council really do feel they deserve a raise, they should go ahead with the independent review, then pay it forward and recommend it take effect for the next council.

I can’t think of a single job where, once you land it at the agreed rate, you get to give yourself a raise.

At a similar watershed years back, council members of the day were debating giving themselves a raise because they were spending more time doing their job. Harry Rankin, who still stands out in Vancouver’s political landscape like the legend he always was, delivered one of his typical wry remarks.

You know, he said, this must be the only job in the world where that logic applies. Any other time when a worker says it now takes me twice as long to do my job would be fired for being less efficient, not rewarded with more money.

Maybe the solution is to elect city councillors who don’t take forever to do what should be done quickly.

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