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Ballot clutter

June 12, 2015
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Updated: As approved for the ballot by the Cape Coral City Council, the amount of proposed council compensation has been revised upward to $32,600 for council members and $36,600 for the mayor, plus either health insurance or a comparable amount in an annuity to be received upon leaving office. The ballot language also makes cost-of-living raises automatic.

The ballot language is:

Amend amount and way Mayor, Council are paid

A referendum to amend the Cape Coral City Charter to provide that Council members shall receive an annual salary of $32,600 and the Mayor shall receive an annual salary of $36,600, rather than an amount based upon the number of registered voters each year. The salaries of the City Council and Mayor shall be adjusted annually beginning in January, 2017 by the percentage amount of the Social Security cost of living adjustment.

Original editorial post:

The Cape Coral Charter Review Commission wrapped up its duties in May, recommending changes to the city's bedrock governing document. The Cape Coral City Council has moved the bulk of the proposals forward to final public hearing.

That will take place Monday at the regular council meeting to begin at 4:30 p.m.

We thank the volunteer appointees on the Charter Review Commission for their efforts. They held numerous open meetings, and the advisory panel presented its recommendations well.

This is not to say we agree with all of the changes proposed. Call us old school but changing the charter should be similar to amending the state or federal constitution in that there must be an obvious and prevailing need.

Otherwise the city charter is simply another ordinance, subject to the whims of an ever-changing governing body and administration.

We'll not address whether the individual amendment proposals should go forward to the fall ballot here.

Except for one.

Once again, a charter review commission has brought forth a suggested change to increase council compensation.

As have advisory boards before them, the current panel has suggested that council compensation be boosted.

Significantly.

Specifically, the commission suggests that effective Oct. 1 of next year, each city council member be compensated at the rate of $28,000 per year, with the mayor earning $32,500 annually. Council then would have the authority to approve a raise for itself of up to 3 percent per year.

Since 1993, the mayor has been paid 20 cents per registered city elector and 17 cents for council members. The number of electors is determined on Nov. 1 of each year and salaries adjusted thereafter.

Currently, there are 113,357 registered voters. At 20 cents per voter, the mayor is paid $22,671.40 per year. At 17 cents per voter, each council member is paid $19,270.69.

Proponents of the change say the per-voter method is problematic.

One, it creates a problem during years the Lee County Elections Office does a "purge" of those who have not voted for six years. This means Cape council members receive less pay when the elections office sheds inactive voters, more during a presidential election when voter registration bumps up.

Two, proponents say paying more will attract "better" candidates.

Ahem.

We're never quite sure who among whatever board is sitting would not run if the pay were greater nor are we convinced their voter mandate would necessarily shift. But no matter.

We're a lot more sure of why total council compensation is not a key component of the "low pay" discussions each time they come up: Total council compensation currently is close to the paychecks proposed.

In addition to the per voter tally, Cape Coral council members, including the mayor, receive either employee insurance coverage at $7,668 per year or an annuity in a like amount that allows elected officials to accrue that money each year in an annuity they can cash upon leaving office.

We invite you to do the math.

A couple of things.

First - and let us be clear here - council seats are not intended to be full-time positions. Elected office in the Cape was never intended to be a "job" or a "career" and the time put in for travel, ribbon cuttings, event attendance and the like is by choice, not mandate.

"Career politicians" is the last thing our city wants to attract.

Second, "more money" is seldom a panacea. Nor does it necessarily produce a better result. Look at public education.

Finally, voters are likely to eyeball this proposal in much the same way as they have in the past: A raise??No way!

Pretty much for the reasons cited above.

The only advantage we can see of bringing the proposed compensation change to the next step is to attract voters to the polls.

Otherwise, it's pretty much ballot clutter.

We urge council to vet the proposals as is their responsibility and keep this one off the ballot.

It's neither merited nor worth the effort to advertise.

- Breeze editorial

 
 
 

 

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