San Antonio Council pay lowest among large U.S. cities

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A recent column by Current contributor Vince Leibowitz about state budget cuts brought an expected anti-polico backlash in the comments section. Not that I can blame anyone their anti-pol prejudices — but some of you elected these people, no? One area of traditional misunderstanding was clarified down there in the back-and-forth, when Leibowitz shared exactly what state legislators earn, writing:
In re: Pay cuts, the members of the Texas Legislature make only $600 per month--slightly more when in session. The Lieutenant Governor makes $7,200 per year--same salary as a legislator. While the governor and other statewide executives receive salaries in the <=150k range, members of the Texas legislature are pretty vastly underpaid as it is. There is not much to cut from their salaries.
Similar grousing comes up in San Antonio with regards to our local leaders from time to time, as well. Such comments betray a jaded sensibility about politics in general, typically from those more removed from the process. Close observers understand the hobbling councilmembers must endure when it comes to doing the jobs voters give them. When it comes to pay on our Council, it’s worth noting San Antonio doesn’t exactly lay out an appetizing spread. A Pew Charitable Trusts report City Councils in Philadelphia and Other Major Cities: Who Holds Office, How Long They Serve, and How Much It All Costs (PDF) reveals that:
Los Angeles has the highest average salaries for council members, $178,789, and San Antonio has the lowest, a maximum of only $1,400 per member. The average council salary in Philadelphia is $121,107, fourth-highest out of the 15 councils studied.
Honestly, as a look at the chart below suggests (click to enlarge), when it comes to the largest cities in the U.S. (plus five similar in size, location to Philly), SA simply falls off the chart. It makes it particularly difficult for candidates from the lower end of the wealth pool to play a serious part in local politics.

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The study was Philadelphia-focused, but revealed some other interesting stats about our city government. Term limits, recently expanded to four two-year terms, certainly play a role in the durability of our councilmembers. While strict limits helped break the hold of the Good Government League in San Anto, there is an argument to be made that the time for such, perhaps, should be drawing to a close.

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And when it comes to reflecting our city's population, our Council is close to the mark with regards to melanin, but it seems we could stand to have another woman or two up there on the dais.

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Not to say the politicians don't have other avenues to bring home some seriously inappropriate bacon (or personal bank), but that's getting off track just a bit.


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