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Mobile Councilors Pay Raise?

CouncilorsMOBILE, Alabama – A proposal to potentially link Mobile City Council members and the mayor's salary increases to cost-of-living raises city employees get was defeated by the council on Tuesday.

With a 4-3 vote, the council shot down a proposal pushed by Councilman Fred Richardson that would ask the Alabama Legislature to amend the Zoghby Act – the state law that establishes how Mobile's council-mayor form of government should operate – and link elected official pay raises with those of city employees.

The measure needed five votes for approval. Voting in favor of it were Richardson, Reggie Copeland, C.J. Small, and William Carroll. Voting against were Bess Rich, Gina Gregory and John Williams.

Following the vote, Rich and Gregory said they didn't support the proposal because they felt the council positions are public service jobs that are also part time.

"In the future, it might be the route we decide to go but it also brings up other questions," Gregory said. "If the economy improves and we are able to offer raises to employees every year, then does that mean the council raises continue to go up? Do we then look at capping the salary? I think it just opens up other questions that need to be looked at."

Richardson, in pushing for the proposal, said the present system of requiring the council to vote on its own raises every four years is not working because councilors have not voted themselves a raise in more than 16 years.

Richardson questioned why it is appropriate for federal and state lawmakers to approve their own pay raises, and not OK for the council to do the same.

"You can call Washington all you want, but they can't pave your street," Richardson said. "We are on the front line. To say there should never be a time a city council member or the mayor, who is working full time, should not receive a raise ... it's nonsense."

Richardson has said the proposal would mirror what is currently allowed for Mobile County commissioners, who last received a pay raise with the rest of the county's employees in 2008.

The council, last month, approved a 2.5 percent across-the-board pay increase for city employees as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget.

The council, however, did not endorse a pay raise for itself earlier this year when it had the opportunity to do so. Council and mayor pay raises can only be approved six months before a city-wide election, and the next time they can be authorized is in 2017.

"This is a common sense resolution," Richardson said, who emphasized that the proposal was not an actual vote for a pay raise.

Councilman William Carroll urged the council's more "conservative" members not to bend to constituency pressure of avoiding pay increases for elected officials.

"The fear I see from the conservative side of the council is the fear of a whiplash from what the general public might say about additional revenues going to an elected official," Carroll said. "If you are afraid of what the public is going to think, you need to educate the public on what actually happens in these chairs. The public is unaware of the midnight and 2 a.m. phone calls for service."

Carroll also said any consideration to reduce council member or the mayor's pay could lead to a situation where only the privileged serve.

"If at some point that Mobile feels as if those we elect should not be compensated, then we've gone backward," he said.