City Council won’t give itself a raise |

City Council won’t give itself a raise

Allyn Harvey

Even though they make less than the lowest-paid dishwashers in town, Aspen City Council members still couldn’t bear to give themselves a raise on the eve of an election.

Councilman Jake Vickery’s move to increase council pay died last night in council chambers, where he found only tepid support in principle and no support in action. Vickery’s motion for a pay raise of 10 percent a year for four years failed for lack of a second, ending what may be one of the shortest-lived public debates in Aspen history.

Vickery’s intentions to seek a raise were first made public yesterday morning in a story in The Aspen Times. His original proposal was to double council pay from $1,200 per month to $2,400.

He said the increase was needed to compensate council members for the long hours they put into studying the materials and attending meetings throughout the valley and across the state. The job has grown, Vickery said, and to make sure it’s done well, so should the pay.

“I’m hearing from people that they want more responsiveness from their elected officials, not just from paid staff members,” Vickery said.

A self-employed architect who is seeking a second term on the council, Vickery said he devotes two days each week solely to council affairs, and would give more time if he could afford to.

Councilman Jim Markalunas said he would only support a raise if it were deferred to June 2001. “I certainly could support an increase in pay of some kind,” he said, “but I’ll only vote for it if it’s deferred.”

Councilwoman Rachel Richards lit into Vickery for his timing – the eve of an election. The mayoral candidate also said she doesn’t think more money equates to harder working council members. “A person’s commitment to the time and work has no correlation to the money they’re paid,” she said.

Richards suggested a charter commission be appointed to look at compensation and other issues concerning the city charter, such as the timing and format of city elections.

Councilman Terry Paulson was more sympathetic to the plight of Vickery and his fellow council members, but was equally scornful toward Vickery for bringing the issue up at a time when it’s sure to become politicized. The city election is May 4.

“I think $1,200 a month is right on the edge of where we should be paid,” he said. “It takes care of your basic payments. You just have to figure out how to eat.”

Mayor John Bennett was philosophically behind Vickery, reading a letter in support of the raise from former Councilwoman Georgeann Waggaman. Although the arguments in favor of a raise were compelling, Bennett said he would rather see the issue decided by a charter committee.

“We may be paid less than the lowest-paid dishwashers in town,” Bennett said, “but the citizens don’t want us to be well paid, whatever their reasons.”

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