On Jan. 7, City Council will hear a proposal that might please the nine members — especially those who will continue in office after April 15, when a newly elected Council will be sworn in.
A group of community leaders and media heavyweights (apparently including both Independent publisher John Weiss and Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen) will submit a proposed charter amendment to Council that would, if put on the ballot and approved by voters in the April election, increase their pay from $6,250 annually to a sum equal to 44 percent of the mayor’s salary, effective in April 2015.
Mayor Steve Bach now makes $96,000 annually, so councilors would see their annual compensation increase 675 percent to $42,240 a year.
For the issue to be placed on the ballot, five councilors will have to approve it.
Based on public statements by current council members during the past two years, it seems likely that measure will be referred to the voters without dissent.
According to a preliminary draft of the proposal, the city and Colorado Springs Utilities would each pay half of the annual salary tab. If CSU ceases to be governed by the Colorado Springs City Council, then the city would be responsible for the full amount.
A particularly ambiguous section of the amendment states that “Service as a councilmember shall not prohibit the councilmember from part-time employment or engaging in an occupation in addition to service as a councilmember …” It leaves open the distinction between “full-time” and “part-time” employment, and is silent on the issue of who would decide the matter, if anyone.
Most municipalities with populations above 400,000 and a mayor-council form of government pay council members. In Denver, the council president is paid $87,539 annually and council members are paid $78,173. All 13 council members in Denver are elected from districts, and each has a staffed office in his or her district.
Colorado Springs voters have turned down several previous measures that would have increased council pay. Supporters of the 2010 “Strong Mayor” amendment considered including council pay in the amendment, but concluded that doing so would violate the city’s “single subject” ordinance.
Absent the sudden reappearance of the strangely low-profile Douglas Bruce, it seems unlikely that the proposed amendment will have any organized, well-funded opposition. And it may well encourage more candidates to run for the six council seats that will be in play in the April election.