Compton Officials Ask Voters for Raises : Politics: If ballot measures are approved, the mayor’s salary will double, to $80,000, and council members’ pay will nearly triple, to $60,000. Critics say the proposal is out of line.
Compton’s mayor and four council members, saying they are overworked and undercompensated, are asking voters to declare their jobs full-time positions with salaries that would make them among the highest-paid elected city officials in California.
If voters approve two ballot measures April 18, Compton--an impoverished city of 90,000--would become one of the smallest cities in California with a full-time mayor and council.
Mayor Omar Bradley’s current part-time salary of $32,000, which he supplements with his regular job as a public school teacher, would jump to $80,000 a year, making him the third-highest-paid mayor in the state after those of San Francisco and Long Beach. (Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a wealthy venture capitalist, accepts only $1 of his $117,884 salary.)
Bradley and Compton council members--whose $22,000 annual salaries would jump to $60,000--would be paid more than elected officials in far larger cities such as San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento.
According to the League of California Cities, the average annual mayoral salary in 15 cities with populations between 85,000 and 115,000 is $9,300, and the average council salary is $7,525. Inglewood, for example, has a population of 110,000 and pays its mayor $15,600 a year.
Neither state nor city law recommends how many hours part-time city officials should work. Bradley and some Compton council members say they are putting in 20 to 40 hours a week.
Compton municipal employees, who have not received a raise in more than two years, and several community leaders roundly condemned the salary proposals, saying they are out of line for a city in which the median household income is about $25,000.
“I don’t think they deserve it,” said Ruby Kenney, a spokeswoman for a union that represents about 140 city workers. “I think they make too much money now.”
“They are overpaid, from my standpoint,” said attorney Maxcy D. Filer, who served on the council for 15 years. “They knew what the salary was going in, and if they ran, they should have accepted it. If the people really wanted it, they would have brought it up.”
Bradley has been advocating greater authority and more pay for the mayor since he took office 18 months ago.
Last year, he suggested that the mayor’s powers be expanded, but a divided council refused to place the measure on the ballot. Bradley also unsuccessfully lobbied to add $11,000 to council members’ salaries for serving on the city’s Gaming Commission.
“It’s not fair for you to ask me to operate a city on two hours (of work each day),” said Bradley, who teaches English at Lynwood High School and coaches at Centennial High School in Compton. “I can’t do that sitting at Lynwood High School teaching Shakespeare.”
The mayor said the proposed salaries are based on a percentage of the Compton city manager’s salary--$110,000.
Only Bradley and one other council member, Yvonne Arceneaux, have full-time jobs. Two other council members are retired, and the fifth works part-time.
Arceneaux said she has misgivings about the pay increase. Last year she was part of a council majority that rejected Bradley’s plan to place a pay increase on the ballot. But now she says she has changed her mind and wants voters to make the choice.
“Whatever the community says, that’s what I want,” she said.
Some government experts say there are valid reasons that leaders of city government should be well-compensated for their time.
Low salaries make it difficult for all but the wealthy to hold office, said Chester A. Newland, a public administration professor at USC. “People who are poor or people who don’t work for a living couldn’t serve,” he said.
Compton was recently rocked by a political corruption scandal in which former Councilwoman Patricia Moore pleaded guilty to a single count of felony extortion and former Mayor Walter R. Tucker III, now a congressman, was indicted on federal charges of extortion and tax evasion. Tucker pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial next month.
Even if a raise is approved by voters in April, there are still questions about when it would take effect, City Clerk Charles Davis said. Legal advisers will decide whether it would take effect in July or after the next election in 1997, he said.