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Published: Thursday, 5/30/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Council ducks vote on raises

Wage-hike plan stays buried in committee

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council dodged a controversial vote on whether to raise salaries for itself and the mayor after the next set of elections.

Saturday is council’s deadline to vote on recommendations from a commission mandated by city charter, but Tuesday was the council’s last regular meeting before that deadline.

The Salary Review and Recommendation Commission had recommended increasing the Toledo mayor’s salary from $122,400 to $136,000 for the next mayor and to raise the salary of council members from $27,500 to $32,500 a year.

The president of council would continue to receive a stipend of $4,500.

The recommendations were left buried in committee without a mention during the Tuesday council meeting. The board’s inaction makes the decision dead in the water.

Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson said she did not call for a vote on the recommendations because there were other, more important, issues on the agenda.

“I don’t think there was enough support for council,” she said. “My vote was a maybe, but it probably would have been a no.”

Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she was leaning against the measure because some city employees have taken concessions.

The commission voted 6-0 in March for the revised mayoral salary. The pay-raise recommendation for council members was approved 5-1 with Lucas County Republican Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook casting the sole no vote.

The mayor’s salary was reduced from $136,000 to $122,400 four years ago when Democrat Carty Finkbeiner was mayor, and the reduced salary was paid to the current mayor, independent Mike Bell.

Mr. Stainbrook said the economy has not recovered long enough to justify future increases to council’s pay.

Other members voting were Mark Sobczak, a former councilman who represents the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO on the commission, and who served as chairman of the meeting; Betsy Dieball of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce; Mary Karazim of the League of Women Voters; Michael Alexander of the NAACP, and Yvonne Harper, executive director of the Lucas County Democratic Party. Robert Torres of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was absent.

Toledo has the lowest council salaries in a survey by the commission of regional cities that included Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee. The only city in the survey with lower council salaries was Fort Wayne, Ind., with $21,842 per year. Pittsburgh (at $108,131) and Dayton ($44,470) both had lower mayoral salaries, according to the survey.

“There were several community leaders, of both retrospective political parties ... and the reason this is done is because the charter says this is supposed to be done,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “All this time was spent and it is a little disheartening that they didn’t even [vote].”

Councilman D. Michael Collins, a independent running for mayor who opposed the raises, wanted to see a vote on the recommendations. He said it was “cowardly” to let the issue die in committee.

“I had anticipated that this would come out of committee of the whole by the president of council,” Mr. Collins said. “I think we had a responsibility to accept or not accept the raises.”

Anita Lopez, Lucas County auditor and Democratic mayoral candidate, criticized the proposed pay raises for councilmen and Toledo’s mayor. She then criticized Mr. Bell and Councilman Joe McNamara — two other mayoral candidates — for allegedly supporting the proposed increases. The mayor, an independent, has never voiced support and Mr. McNamara, a Democrat, has consistently opposed raises for councilmen or the mayor.

Ms. Lopez’s pay as county auditor in 2007 was $91,762 and it was increased by the state to $94,246 in 2008. As county recorder, she received yearly 3 percent raises.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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