$3 is too much to pay for a city councilperson
City councilpeople are a dime a dozen in Fort Worth, Texas.(Actually, they’re more like 13 cents apiece for eight.) In Dallas, they’re even cheaper. There, you can get a city councilperson for four cents.
But if you live in San Jose, Calif., and decide you want to buy a city councilperson, it’s gonna cost you a whopping $4.09. Of course, in San Jose, they come with their own cell phones, and you can pretty much get by just feeding them salads.
Those are some of the results that Research Atlanta, a non-partisan, non-profit organization under the auspices of the Georgia State University School of Policy Studies came up with when researchers updated their 1994 Governing Body Survey. The update was requested by Atlanta’s Compensation Commission, which was charged with determining where the city’s councilpeople’s pay stood on a nationwide basis and making recommendations based on that information.
The researchers asked 29 cities for information on the salaries and other compensation offered to city administrators – mayors and councilpeople. Cities were chosen based on comparability in size with Atlanta and its metropolitan region. Researchers tried to account for differences, like extent of powers, that could contribute to a disparity in numbers.
The findings are interesting. Fort Worth, for example, pays its eight councilpeople $3,750 and gives them a $2,500 spending allowance. That means that its city residents are paying just 13 cents per city councilperson. If the total metropolitan population is included, that figure drops to 11 cents. Unless the Fort Worth City Council spends its meeting time playing Hangman and writing haikus, I’d have to say 13 cents is a steal.
Similar pretty good deals are enjoyed by the citizens of Seattle (15 cents per resident); Charlotte, N.C., (34 cents); Indianapolis (40 cents); and San Francisco (44 cents).
On the flip side, Atlanta’s residents (read “me”) are spending $3.66 apiece for a city council that is currently somewhere between the Dallas Cowboys and the National Enquirer’s photo department on the ethics scale. That amount will go down a bit after the first of the year when the council is reduced from 18 to 15 members. (St. Louis residents spend $2.39 each for their councilpeople, but there are 28 of them!)
This prompts me to suggest a standard: A city councilperson should never cost more than a draft beer.