17 reasons why City Council deserves the 3.8% raise

City Council will receive a 3.81% salary increase in 2015, which would make the mayor’s salary $176,145 and the councillors’ salary $99,994. That’s an increase over their 2014 salaries of $6,464 and $3,671, respectively. As one third of that is tax exempt, the fully taxable equivalent salary is $213,272 for the mayor and $118,824 for the councillors. At the end of the day, we’re talking about another $50,516 per year to pay for all the increases. It’s not a large amount, and I think it’s fair.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here are 17 reasons why Council deserves the proposed raise, in no particular order:

  1. Under our current twelve ward system, Councillors represent between 60,000 and 95,000 Edmontonians each. And our city is one of the fastest growing in the country, so that number is only going up!
  2. Council’s compensation is calculated in an open and transparent way using the percentage change in the 12 month average of the Alberta Weekly Earnings values as reported by Statistics Canada.
  3. Just counting Council & Committee meetings and public hearings, Council met 115 times in 2014. Those meetings included a combined 3,825 agenda items. Many of those included multi-page reports. That’s a lot of reading!
  4. Unlike other levels of government, Councillors do not vote on their own pay raises. It’s done automatically through an independent system that was established in 2011 by bylaw 15969.
  5. An increase of 3.8% is nothing compared with historical increases! Before the current system was implemented, aldermen awarded themselves large increases. In 1972 aldermen gave themselves a 26% increase, and in 1977, immediately after the election, aldermen tried to increase their salaries by 60%! In 1989, aldermen approved a 51% increase over three years.
  6. Supported by Council, our mayor stood up in front of a room full of business people and said that while attempting to eliminate poverty is a complex challenge, he is is unafraid to tackle it. This Council believes in the importance of representing and improving the lives of all Edmontonians.
  7. Councillors work long hours, way more than 40 per week in most instances. Just look at the last week – they had a marathon discussion about Uber and taxis that went to nearly 10pm, and they extended the January 26 Public Hearing twice in order to give everything the time it deserved. On top of that they regularly attend community events throughout the week and on weekends. A busy week could easily exceed 60 hours.
  8. Councillor Gibbons estimated back in 2012 that the proposed 5.35% increase that year worked out to an extra $2 per hour based on the number of hours he puts in.
  9. Many members of Council choose to direct portions of their salary or their eligible increases to worthy causes. For instance, in 2011, 2012, and 2013 Councillor Iveson donated $2,505 of his salary to the Donate-a-Ride program. Sometimes members of Council simply decline an increase. For instance, Mayor Mandel froze his salary for three years until his final year in office.
  10. They are working hard to develop a “true partnership” with the Province that will result in the long-term sustainability of our city. They are renewing neighbourhoods now and building up a fund to pay for maintenance in the future. They’re concerned with Edmonton’s future, not just its present.
  11. A study on the perception of Council’s compensation in 2012 (pdf) found that the annual salaries for comparable positions for the mayor and councillors align well with the actual salaries they receive.
  12. One comparison to another leader in our community: outgoing University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera earned a salary of $544,000 last year. Another comparison: more than 3,100 Alberta government employees earned over $100,000 a year in 2012 and 2013.
  13. Unpopular as the idea may sound, research suggests that higher wages attract better quality politicians and improve political performance. This was the argument made in Boston recently too when Councillors there debated giving themselves a 29% raise.
  14. Council is committed to building our city’s infrastructure, and they’re getting results, securing funding for the Valley Line LRT extension as an example.
  15. If rising costs are your concern, there are far more expensive things to be concerned about. Here are 99 stupid things the government spent your money on. At #53: “The City of Edmonton spent $500,000 on licences for software that an auditor said hardly any employees ever use.” Back in 2008, the City spent $92 million on consultants.
  16. After taking into account the difference in tax exemptions, our mayor and councillors make roughly the same amount as their counterparts in Calgary.
  17. Every year, no matter what they do, Councillors have to deal with hundreds if not thousands of complaints about snow removal, potholes, and other hot topics. Not to mention hearing constant NIMBYism and receiving all kinds of criticism as they try to make positive change for now and the future. It really is a thankless job at times.

I’m sure you can think of many other reasons – what are yours?

Yes, improvements could be made. I’d like to see the salaries stated in terms of the fully taxable equivalent for instance, rather than having to explain that 1/3 is tax exempt. Still, I think it’s crazy how upset some citizens get whenever the topic of salary increases for City Council comes up. There’s no shortage of other more important issues to discuss.

The Great Edmonton Airport Debate Continues

Tonight at 7pm, the discussion about the City Centre Airport resumes. I’ll be joining David MacLean from AEG on FusedLogic TV to discuss the issue (more info here). In case you missed it, here’s our short segment from last Thursday’s Alberta Primetime.

Thanks to FusedLogic for hosting this tonight. Here’s an intro video they’ve put together:

Because it’s online, we’ll get to be a little more interactive too. There will be a chat room and of course we’ll be checking Twitter and such as well.

If you’re looking for some reading to do before the debate tonight, check out the latest letters in support of closing the ECCA:

The issue goes before City Council on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30pm. If you haven’t already, email, write, or call your Councillors to let them know how you feel about the City Centre Airport.

Edmonton City Centre Airport Debate: Resources

We’re down to the final stages of the City Centre Airport review process. If you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself on the issue, the time is now.

Here are the reports that were released last week:

  • Airport Legal Review and Analysis (Attachment 1 in this PDF)
  • Airport Lands Net Revenue Review (Attachment 3 in this PDF)
  • The Airport Lands Impact Assessment Final Report (PDF)
  • The Medevac Transport Report (PDF)
  • The Historical Impact Assessment Report (PDF)
  • The Economic Impact Analysis (PDF)
  • The Public Involvement Plan Results (PDF)

The Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) posted a response to the reports here.

The big report is the Airport Lands Impact Assessment, at 299 pages. Here’s a Wordle of that report:

Here are some highlights from the various report conclusions:

  • “The planning of ambulance services is dependent on many local factors such as availability of resources, both financial and personnel; regional density of populations; road condition and geographic variations; and so forth. Clinically, outcomes for trauma and medical patients are mainly impacted by the services available rather than by type of transport.”
  • “The City Centre Airport ranks with the Rossdale site and the provincial government precinct as among the three most significant historical locations in the City of Edmonton. As such everything possible should be done to acknowledge that fact through commemorative and interpretive initiatives.”
  • “Redevelopment of the ECCA, as defined in the Demonstration Plan, would result in the equivalent of a net tax saving to the City of Edmonton. The value of redeveloping the ECCA Lands is, in aggregate, a net benefit to the City of Edmonton’s financial position.”
  • “Based on the review completed, the redevelopment of the ECCA Lands into a new residential and employment based neighbourhood represents a significant opportunity for the City to achieve established long term visions regarding sustainable development and a more compact urban form. The redevelopment of the ECCA Lands could allow for the development of a new urban community with transit as its centrepiece.”

There will be a public hearing on Wednesday (and Thursday/Friday if necessary):

What: Public Hearing on the City Centre Airport (Agenda in Word)
When: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 from 9:30am to 5:30pm
Where: City Hall
Request to Speak: Fill out this form to speak.

The next step is for any recommendations to be reviewed by Council on July 10, 2009. Don’t forget that you can watch or listen to Council and Committee meetings live online.

The City’s portal for the City Centre Airport Review contains a bunch of additional information and links, so be sure to check it out. There’s also some info at the Public Involvement site.

[geo_mashup_map height=”250″ width=”500″ zoom=”13″ add_overview_control=”false” add_map_type_control=”false”]

Here are some social media resources:

Some other stuff to read:

Lorne Gunter wrote a great article in Sunday’s Edmonton Journal: Muni is not ‘my’ airport. For some predictions on Council’s vote, check out Scott McKeen’s piece from yesterday’s Journal. He’s betting that Council will vote to close the airport. Also – you’ve got to look at this photo of Councillor Tony Caterina on the tarmac of the City Centre Airport. And finally, you might find my post (from May) about the ECCA debate on Twitter interesting.

For the latest news, check out #ecca on Twitter Search.

As you’ve perhaps figured out by now, I’m in favor of closing the City Centre Airport. I don’t feel that keeping the status quo is compatible with making Edmonton a more sustainable, vibrant city, and moving passenger service back to the muni isn’t possible. There is an opportunity to redevelop the lands however, and I think the City should act on that now before the opportunity passes us by.

Let’s close the City Centre Airport and move on.

UPDATE: Edmonton Airports has compiled a number of briefing notes related to the airport for presentation at the public hearings. (PDF)