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OPINION: City Council’s claim that they gave themselves a $10k pay raise for “access to democracy” doesn’t hold up

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece, and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL or its ownership.

How incredible would it be if you got to vote on how much money you make?

Imagine you could just walk into your office and say, “Hey, I think we should get paid more. Anybody else here we should get paid more? Let’s take it to a vote. Who here wants a $10,000 raise?”

Salt Lake City Council members get to do that – and on Tuesday, they did it. They got together and voted – unanimously – to raise their own salaries from $26,291 to $35,925 a year.

Just to put that in perspective, that’s a 37 percent raise.

On my show this week, I told Debbie that’s insane. There’s no other way to talk about this. That’s just straight-up, completely insane.

How much is $35,925 a year, really?

Salt Lake City Council swearing-in ceremony

File photo swearing-in ceremony for members of the the Salt Lake City Council at the City-County Building on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL)

$35,925 might not sound like a lot of money, but let’s break down what it really looks like for a City Council job.

First of all, we need to understand that this is a part-time job – even if the city council members say it isn’t.

One of the council members said, during the meeting, that they spend more time doing city council work than they do on their actual, full-time job – but I’ve got to be blunt about this : I don’t buy it.

I don’t buy for a second that anybody on that council is spending 40 to 50 hours a week on their regular jobs and then going in and spending another 40 to 50 hours a week on city council work.

I’m not saying these people don’t work hard. I’m just saying that it’s physically impossible. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

This is a part-time job – which, typically, means that they’re working up to 29 hours per week. And if we assume they are working 29 hours per week, it means that our city council members are now making about $26 an hour.

At $26 an hour, this has got to be the best-paying part-time job in Utah.

I probably worked for a decade before I started making $26 an hour. I wonder how many people in Salt Lake City right now would do a little dance if they started making as much money as our City Council members.

This isn’t about “access to democracy”

Salt Lake City Council Members

FILE – Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Erin Mendenhall, center, discusses the inland port legislation during the council’s special work session at the City-County Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

We spent all morning, on Wednesday, trying to get a City Council member – any member – to talk to us on the air.

No one got back to us.

And I get that. I understand it’s a little uncomfortable to talk about this. But when you increase your salary by almost $10,000 a year, you’ve got to be ready for people to ask some questions.

City Council has to be able to explain how they got to that number. And the answer they gave during the meeting just doesn’t make sense to me.

Council Chairwoman Erin Mendelhall said that she was only asking for a raise for the good of democracy.

She said that she’s asked other people in her area to consider running for her seat when she’s done, and that they’ve said they can’t do it because it would affect their salaries.

“Every single person in my district should have the opportunity to serve here without it costing their family,” she said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about access to democracy for me.”

Somebody’s got to explain that thought process to me. Because I just don’t see how you can think this extra $10,000 somehow opens it up so that everyone in the city can run.

I think you’re insane if you think anyone is going to leave their full-time job and give up their benefits just so they can get a part-time, temporary position that pays $35,925 a year.

Let’s just call this what it is. This isn’t about democracy. This isn’t about helping the little guy.

City Council had a chance and took it.

Another side to the story

Of course, this is just my opinion. My co-host Debbie Dujanovic and I talked about this story on the air, and she sees this very differently. Take a look at both sides of this issue and read her thoughts on the story.

If you missed our show live, you can still hear us debate on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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