When most people seek public office at the local level, compensation is not one of the things they consider. The thing they talk about is providing leadership and service to the community. Then they get elected and discover the amount of time it takes to prepare for the public meeting so they don’t look bad or get embarrassed. They also discover that neighbors who would not speak to them before seek them out on things they will not call the agency about. They get hit with people or business developers seeking help with projects or issues they cannot handle themselves. So the elected policy maker decides: “I need to be compensated for my time so give me a car and expense account. This job has become more than a couple of public meetings a month.”
From my experience, most (and I say most) local elected officials can get by with none of these perks because all they do is go to the meetings and interact with staff for most of their information while others attend community meetings in order to stay abreast of any and all issues. I am bringing up this topic because the city of Riverside is taking on the issue of getting rid of the council members’ city funded cars. Some members have already turned in their cars and will seek reimbursement for city related expenses if necessary.
Councilman Paul Davis wants to talk about the policy and says he does not understand why Mayor Ron Loveridge’s, car and gas allowance is $500 dollars a month as compared to the $350 for the council. One reason of course, is the mayor represents the entire city and is very active and a councilmember represents a 7th of the city.
Now I have had the good (or in some cases misfortune) of knowing many elected officials during my political tenure in the Inland Empire and some were good high profile representatives for their cities while others were not. For example: Mayor Ab Brown, Riverside, Mayor Bob Holcomb, San Bernardino, Mayor Nat Simon, Fontana, Mayor Tom Bradley, Los Angeles had the kind of leadership, reputation and concern for the citizens that propelled them beyond their city boundaries. They also had the time and energy to attend many functions in their cities regardless of the group holding the event. Keeping that kind of reputation currently are mayors like Ron Loveridge and Pat Morris of San Bernardino. They are comfortable at any chamber function with any ethnic group, organizations like NAACP, The Group, Latino Network and visit various faith based events regardless of denomination. Yet I do not recall any of them talking about compensation for doing the work of the position they sought.
I also remember too well the Tyisha Miller shooting that almost tore the city of Riverside apart and the councilmembers had to attend many community meetings. Councilmember Ameal Moore and Mayor Loveridge were all over the city day and night, yet compensation never came up as a question.
When the community rose up in arms over the naming of the now Martin Luther King Jr. High School, School Board member Lew Vanderzyl stepped up to the plate and attended community meetings representing the school district and compensation never came up as a topic.
Yet we now have some elected officials who attend required meetings and run into ward constituents at the grocery store or while out walking in the neighborhood and want to be compensated for talking with them. Give the taxpayer a break and pay the price if you want a car. You ran to serve and lead now lead while serving, but do it without a city paid car.
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