The City Council plans to vote next week on its newly announced plan to give Councilmembers $36,000 raises, their first since 2006. The raises would be tied to ethical reforms endorsed by good-government groups. The Council will hear public comments at a hearing on Wednesday, and expects to vote on the measure on Friday. The raises would be retroactive to January 1st, and bring Councilmember salaries to $148,500, a 32 percent increase, and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's pay would jump to $164,500.
The raises would be tied to a package of reforms recommended by a mayor-convened panel including banning outside income, making Councilmember officially a full-time job, and requiring online financial disclosures. The change would also eliminate stipends for heading committees, which can run as much as $25,000 a year, and give the Council Speaker significant power over Councilmembers. In voting to make the raises effective immediately, the Council is ignoring the urging of the group Citizens Union, which has repeatedly called for delaying them until after the next election.
"Citizens Union urges the Council to avoid the conflict of interest that exists if they raise their salaries during this current term," organization head Dick Dadey had said. "We ask the Council to delay all raises until the start of the following term, beginning in 2018."
The legislation was also arrived at without a hearing, which Dadey told Gotham Gazette "is unconscionable because it denies the public the input that it had during past cycles of reviewing and commenting on the matter of elected official salaries before a bill was introduced" and represents "disregard for our democratic processes."
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito does not see anything untoward about any of this.
"The City Council is embarking on unprecedented, substantial reforms that will strengthen New York City's legislative body and help Council Members better serve the districts they proudly represent," she said in a statement. "Restricting outside income and eliminating all member stipends, while also designating Councilmembers' positions as full-time jobs, reflects the extensive work Members conduct in their communities and across the entire city."
The bill also includes a $258,750 salary for the mayor, up from $225,000. Mayor de Blasio has said he won't take a raise this term. As part of the closed-doors deal, district attorneys would get a $22,800 raise to $212,800, the comptroller would get a $24,050 raise to $209,050, the public advocate would get a $19,800 boost to $184,800, and the borough presidents would get $19,200 more, bringing their pay to $179,200.
The Council raises are $10,000 more than those recommended by the mayor's appointed commission, but less than the $192,000 the members once reportedly planned to give themselves. The other raises are as the panel recommended.
It's no coincidence, by the way, that the Council will vote through the pay raises & horse deal on a Friday https://t.co/8KxdT0s1Zt
— Ben Max (@TweetBenMax) January 29, 2016
The surprise raise vote also drew criticism for being scheduled the same day as a vote on the mayor's deal to move carriage-horse stables to Central Park and ban pedicabs, which he hatched in secret, without consulting even the Central Park Conservancy, which manages the green space. Gotham Gazette wrote that the timing could make it appear could be read as a quid-pro-quo deal wherein de Blasio approves the raises in exchange for Council approval of the horse deal. The Daily News called the scheduling "daylight bribery" that would make Boss Tweed cheer.
Councilman David Greenfield denied that a self-serving plot was afoot.
@TweetBenMax I haven't seen final versions of 2 bills. Horse bill must change or I will vote no. Pay bill must end lulus & outside income.
— David G. Greenfield (@NYCGreenfield) January 29, 2016
Worth bearing in mind when thinking about these pay numbers, as we've mentioned before in the context of raises for city politicians:
the median household income is $52,259, a number that has barely risen since the economic crisis began in 2008. The average New Yorker currently makes just $32,000. A New York cop makes $76,600 after five years on the job, while a New York public school teacher makes somewhere between $50,812 and $63,534.