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Glendale council members discuss ballot measures C and O

Two of the four initiatives on the ballot Tuesday deal directly with money: Asking voters to increase the city’s hotel tax and to allow the City Council to set its own pay.

Salaries for council members have decreased 40% since 2011.

The amount is tied to state law, which sets council salaries according to city population size. Pay for sitting on the dais in the Jewel City dropped due to a dip in population below the 200,000 mark as well as the loss of redevelopment agencies statewide.

While Glendale City Council members make about $17,160 currently, they once made about $30,000, said Ara Najarian, who admitted he was mixed on Measure C.

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The figure does not include the value of healthcare, stipends for service on other boards and other benefits which, according to the website Transparent California, pushes the total compensation of Glendale council members to about $60,000.

“I’m kind of mixed on that. I think that council members do put in an incredible amount of time. I put in on average about 30 hours a week,” Najarian said, in addition to the hours he devotes to his private law practice.

Still, Najarian added: “I’m a little bit hesitant to push strongly toward it.”

He is also aware the measure’s opponents claim it is a greedy move, but for his part, Najarian said he would make $100,000 more each year if he were not serving on the council.

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“I lose at least $100,000 a year by being on the council. I don’t do it for the money,” Najarian said, adding that should it pass, the council “would have to be very judicious and prudent if they decide to raise salaries,” adding: “I do not see us turning it into anything excessive.”

Any salary increase would also be discussed during a public meeting.

Like Najarian, Councilwoman Laura Friedman believes a salary increase would result in more residents running for council who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford spending roughly 30 hours per week dedicated to city issues and events.

“It’s definitely not the part-time job that it was in the 1980s and 1970s. There’s a lot of work involved,” she said, adding that the post requires at least 30 hours of work each week and staying up to date on other boards and commissions, being available to meet with residents and reaching out to many in the public.

“We get hundreds of emails a day,” she added.

Friedman, Najarian and Mayor Zareh Sinanyan are in favor of Measure C because they say higher pay would attract more candidates to take on the leadership role now taken on by independently wealthy or retired residents.

“I think we’re leaving otherwise qualified candidates off the council dais because they wouldn’t be able to financially afford it,” Najarian said.

Sinanyan added: “The end result is a council who is not representative of the residents of the city.”

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But for Councilman Dave Weaver, running for reelection, it is up to each council member to define their own role and how many hours they put in.

“It’s what you want to make of the job,” Weaver said. “The charter that was written says it’s a part-time job. When any of my colleagues say it’s a full-time job, I say it isn’t, but you want to make it that and you want to be everywhere, or if you’re running for a higher office; you want everyone to see you. I’m here to serve the people of Glendale.”

Councilwoman Paula Devine is against Measure C, believing council compensation should remain tied to the state’s government code, which is based on city population size.

“I think that’s a fair and logical way of doing it,” Devine said of the current method. “It keeps us out of the mix. I don’t want to cause any more concern or dissension in the public about how our salaries are determined.”

A less flashy money issue asks residents to approve raising the city’s hotel tax from 10% to 12%, something the City Council unanimously supports.

Officials say the revenue generated from the tax boost would give the city’s general fund $800,000 more each year to be put toward the city’s libraries, recreation and park programs, police and fire departments and the Alex Theatre, among other programs.

The 2% increase equates to a hotel guest paying $2 to stay in a room costing $100 per night.

City officials say the tax increase will also be competitive with other cities, such as Pasadena, which has a 12.11% rate, and Los Angeles, which has a 14% hotel tax.

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“We haven’t caught up with inflation. We should be more in line with what’s happening for the cities around us,” Friedman said.

Najarian, who also supports Measure O, said: “It’s really a painless way to get a little bit of extra income for the city from the travelers.”


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