Rick's two cents
Former Mayor Cole and Councilman Madison argue about council raise on Facebook
By André Coleman 11/07/2012
Are Pasadena City Council seats available for only wealthy and retired people who don’t need money?
That seems to be the contention of onetime Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole, who recently chimed in on social media over a controversial cost-of-living increase the council approved for members and most city employees on Oct. 29.
Cole, former city manager of Ventura, made his assertion on Facebook after District 6 Councilman Steve Madison expressed his displeasure with the 5-2 vote to approve the increases. Also opposed was District 4 Councilman Gene Masuda.
The raise was granted to help offset a decision by city officials to move a bigger portion of the burden of pension payments from the city to employees. Under the current system, the city and employees each pay a portion of the employee’s 8-percent pension deduction to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), with the employee paying between 3.6 percent and 3.9 percent based on deals cut by unions and associations representing different departments.
Starting next year, employees will pay the full 8-percent deduction, which will allow the city to save $226,000 a year.
“I was disappointed that the Pasadena City Council voted themselves a [3 percent] pay raise last night, even though we have had to lay off city employees for whom their job was the only way they provided for their families [unlike the council, who are part-time citizen volunteers essentially who receive a monthly stipend],” Madison wrote.
After several people responded, most of whom agreed with Madison, Cole chimed in that public office should not be available only to candidates who make six figures.
“With due respect, Steve, one who earns as much as you do in the private sector might consider being a little less vocal about the issue,” Cole wrote. “Public office should not be available only to those who can afford it because of six-figure incomes or being retired. Far from ‘a ton of money,’ it is an infinitesimal part of the overall budget. I admire and support your public service. By all means, make your statement by your own actions — but not in judging others for doing what’s allowed by the Charter.”
Madison, who is a wealthy lawyer, told the Weekly he respected Cole’s opinion, but still opposed the raise.
The council also agreed on cost of living increases for City Clerk Mark Jomsky (from $143,006 to $147,296), City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris (from $225,144 to $231,898) and City Manager Michael Beck (from $284,000 to $292,520).
Council members earn about $1,367.56 a month. The mayor takes home $2,051.29. In March, the city laid off 14 employees and has eliminated 300 workers since 2009.