Waste Watchers: Some council members support pay increase

6:27 PM, Nov 1, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Three Atlanta city council members have expressed support for proposed pay raises that have drawn fire from taxpayers and some city employees.

More than 500 people voiced their opinions on 11Alive's Facebook page concerning a proposal to give a significant boost to Atlanta's Mayor and members of the city council. The overwhelming majority of the comments voiced opposition to the recommended 25 percent pay raise for Atlanta's Mayor, and 52 percent pay increases for members of the council.

"The noble thing to do is not pay yourself before you pay the people who support you and put you in those seats," city employee Gina Pagnotta-Murphy told council members during a Tuesday meeting.

Pagnotta-Murphy, the head of Atlanta's Professional Association of City Employees, says many city workers haven't had a raise in ten years.

RELATED | Taxpayers, city employees angry over proposed city official raises

On Thursday, 11Alive's Jerry Carnes delivered public comments to council members attending a fall retreat at the Atlanta Zoo. He asked them to reveal their stand on the pay increase proposal.

Most indicated they had not decided or would not reveal their stance.

Councilman Ivory Young said he believes he deserves a 52 percent pay hike.

"Absolutely," said Young. "I have no problem telling you, absolutely, and I don't have any problem sharing the reasons why."

The city's charter doesn't specify if the position of city council is a full-time or part-time position. Since Young and other council members hold full-time jobs, many consider council work to be part-time.

Young says the work he does for the city is full-time.

"On average, we get 40 to 50 complaints a day, constituent concerns that our office is actively engaged in helping to address," said Young.

The councilman also pointed to the report of the city's Elected Officials Compensation Commission that compares the pay of Atlanta's elected to other cities like Denver, Boston, Dallas, Seattle, Jacksonville, Memphis, and Washington D.C. The commission reports that pay for Atlanta's Mayor and council is toward the bottom.

The commission has recommended increasing the Mayor's pay from $147,500 a year to $184,300 a year.

Mayor Kasim Reed's spokesperson said the Mayor will not accept a pay increase as long as he's in office.

The commission is recommending elevating the pay of city council members from $39,473 to $60,300 annually. If approved, the council president's pay would jump from $41,000 a year to $62,000.

Ceasar Mitchell is the current council president who would vote only to break a tie. He's leaning toward supporting the pay raises.

"Can you see this happening before city employees get a raise?" Carnes asked Mitchell.

"I don't know," the council president answered. "I think that's a conversation for the council. We will not make this decision in a vacuum and not consider employees of the city."

City councilman Kwanza Hall is the only contacted by 11Alive News on Thursday who says he's leaning toward a "no" vote on the pay increase.

"My gut feeling was not to be inclined to do anything like this in this economic climate, as well as looking at the fact we have to consider our employees as well," said Hall.

On Wednesday, council member Felicia Moore said she could support a pay raise.

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