May 19, 2024

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Proposed Boston City Council Pay Raises Are Not Realistic

Boston City Councillor Bill Linehan of South Boston recently proposed a pay raise for Boston City Council from the current salary of $87,500 to $112,500 annually.  This is a proposed increase of 29% equaling $25,000.  Linehan’s logic is that the Boston City Council has not received a pay raise since 2006 and the councillor’s are not being compensated at the growing rates of other city employees.

Many have attacked this proposal noting Linehan’s frequent deviations from what most right thinking people would see as common sense. For instance, Linehan also recently proposed the naming of the South Boston Branch Library after Billy Bulger, controversial political figure and brother of even more controversial serial killing gangster Whitey Bulger.  Linehan has also often been at odds with communities of color on several issues from education to budgeting to recognizing Black historical milestones.  Linehan is perceived by many to be a dinosaur, a throwback to the “good ole days” and one of the “good ole boys” that no one with even a mild tan has much “good” to say about.

Let’s take a common sense look at the issue of pay raises for Boston City Councillors.

Here’s what your local State Rep. makes:

State Representatives
As of 2010, Massachusetts state legislators earned $61,133 per year. As of 2012, legislators also received a per diem that ranged between $10 to $100 per day, depending on the legislator’s distance from State House.

So if we compare for my community State Rep. Gloria Fox with City Councillor Tito Jackson based on population within the district it looks like this:

MA House of Representatives 7th Suffolk District – Gloria Fox
Population 40,030:  Race:  47.05% White | 32.05% Black | 8.54% Asian | 16.59% Hispanic

Boston City Council District 7 – Tito Jackson
Population 64,422: Race:  20.4% White | 47.9% Black | 2.7% Asian | 20.3% Hispanic

There are arguments on all side of this debate. Some say city councillors are already overpaid for a “part-time” position.  That is inaccurate and speaks to the displeasure of many who don’t feel that the councillors actually do enough. I can testify from experience that the job of a city councillor, or any elected official, is certainly not part time and actually closer to 24/7.

I ran for District 7 Boston City Council in 2013 and if we had won, the salary of $87,500 would have been a game changer for me personally and for the community which I work for.  If I had been elected to the council, I would certainly vote against a pay raise. Ultimately, when outvoted, I would immediately dedicate at least 50% of the pay raise amount to local organizations and individuals who do great work with no fanfare and even less finance.

A common sense approach to Boston City Council pay raises is simply this:
– Limit the pay raise to a more modest amount like $95,000 which just seems less greedy and is not such an affront to the working communities the council represents.
– A salary difference may be justified in the case of At-Large City Councillors, who have the entire city as their constituents rather than a smaller neighborhood district. Perhaps At-Large Councillors would receive $5,000 or $10,000 per year more than district councillors.
– Councillors may not receive the same salary of high-level cabinet administrators which in many cases is $175,00o and in fairness these are professional positions not won by election and are focused areas like health, education, development in which the salaries are fairly competitive with the private sector and in many cases far less.

The Boston City Council should vote against the pay raise proposed by Linehan and should instead adopt a less heavy hand when patting themselves on the back. The entire system of pay raises for elected officials should be revamped. The idea that you get to propose and vote on your own pay raise is suspect at best.  The only thing that could be as skewed is if the general public was allowed to vote on what elected officials should make. Based on the conversations and critiques I have heard they may all be facing the same minimum wage salaries as much of their constituents.

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