Councilman kills pay raise proposal
ASPEN ” Aspen City Councilman Jack Johnson on Tuesday withdrew the proposed ballot measure to more than double the pay of elected officials, after the idea was met with resistance and skepticism.
Johnson killed the proposal during a continuation of Monday’s City Council meeting, which went past midnight and resumed at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“Had I any idea of the controversy, I would have never [introduced it],” Johnson said, adding he didn’t think he met resistance when speaking to his fellow council members individually about the idea.
As a compromise, the council agreed to form a compensation committee made up of citizens to compare salaries of other council members in various cities, as well as the scope of work required by the local citizenry.
Mayor Mick Ireland thanked Johnson for having the fortitude of thinking of a compensation increase, and the courage to say that council members are overworked and underpaid.
While he doesn’t support asking for a raise because of a weakening economic climate, Ireland said he believes council members should get paid even more than what Johnson had suggested.
Ireland noted that with the amount of work he does as mayor, his pay averages to about $14.40 an hour. He said it would be impossible to find the quality of individuals currently sitting on the council for the amount of money they are paid in the free market on, for example, a board of directors for a company.
“These people are honest, hard-working, well-prepared, eminently in touch with the people,” Ireland said, adding council members have day jobs, as well as full-time jobs as elected officials. He added that the city of Aspen wants to be a leader in important issues like growth management, transportation and affordable housing, issues that require full-time attention.
“This is a demanding city,” Ireland said. “This is extra work, and this is beyond 40 hours [a week].”
Johnson’s ballot measure would have asked voters to approve increasing the salary of the mayor from $2,325 a month to $4,531.25. Council members’ salaries, which are currently $1,700 a month, would have been increased to $4,027.98, if approved by voters.
The compensation packages were derived from the salaries of Pitkin County commissioners, who earn $72,500 a year. That salary was set by the Colorado Legislature in 2006.
The mayor’s increased salary would have been 75 percent of what the commissioners make. Council members would have earned 66.67 percent of what commissioners make.
Ireland also withdrew a ballot measure proposal, this one aimed at moving the May election to June, when more people are in town after their extended offseason vacations. He also noted that the weather is better and warmer in June and therefore, more people would head to the polls.
Aspen resident Andrew Kole argued that June is no good because it requires a longer campaign, which costs more, and the heart of the campaign would occur in April and May, when locals have left.
“You would be campaigning to no one,” he said. “It would be left to the person with the best mailing list or the most money.”
He added that the election should occur in April, and the campaign would be in February and March.
Ireland reasoned that campaigns usually begin in February anyway and workers are laid off in March during the final days of the ski areas being open.
Elections have been held in May since 1971, said City Clerk Kathryn Koch.
Johnson suggested a multiple-choice question, asking voters to pick either April, May or June for the spring election.
The proposals died because of a lack of support.
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The city of Aspen is supposed to break ground on 300-plus housing units in 2024 but if Monday’s meeting with elected officials is any indication, the project could take years before coming online.