Ask the heads of any successful business what drives them, and the answer is likely to be “passion.” They love what they do. They come to work every day eager to make their organization and the world a better place. Yet, how different would USAA look if its chairman made only a few thousand dollars a year? What if the executives at Valero received $20 a week?
Passion may be the driving force behind the leaders at successful enterprises, but compensation is the catalyst. It’s difficult to be passionate about your mission when you’re worried about paying your rent, or providing for your family.
And yet, that’s what we ask of San Antonio’s mayor and City Council members every day. We expect them to take on a more-than-full-time job – under constant scrutiny and frequent criticism – for practically no compensation.
Our City Council members are paid $20 per meeting. That’s an average of $80 a month, capped at $1,040 a year. From another perspective, if our City Council members were working for Texas’ minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, their weekly $20 salary would compensate them for less than three hours of service.
Granted, when those salaries were established in 1951, the minimum wage was 75 cents an hour. Even then, serving on San Antonio’s City Council was considered a part-time job, paying the equivalent of less than 27 hours a week at the prevailing minimum wage.
Today, guiding a city of more than 1.4 million people is clearly a fulltime job, requiring not only highly motivated and well-educated individuals, but people willing to shoulder the responsibility of leading one of America’s largest cities. That’s especially been the case since 1977, when San Antonio moved from at-large council members to ten single-member districts. Each council member now represents, and is accountable for 140,000 residents.
On May 9, we’ll have the opportunity to revise our outdated public service compensation model. Voting yes on Charter Amendment 2 will move San Antonio into the 21st century along with other major Texas cities and towns, including Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston, by paying our city leaders a reasonable salary.
The Sensible Pay For SA initiative calls for City Council members to be paid the San Antonio median salary of $45,722. Charter Amendment 2 calls for the mayor to be paid an additional 35%, or $61,725. Annually, that’s $518,945 for San Antonio’s entire elected leadership, less than the city spends every year replacing damaged or lost garbage cans.
Charter Amendment 2 will not raise the city’s budget or increase taxes. The money to pay our leaders a reasonable salary will come from the existing City Council budget.
Public service is a sacrifice. Elected officials devote time and energy to their community that could be spent with their families, pursuing hobbies, or furthering their careers. That devotion and passion should be rewarded, not punished. Let’s reduce the financial burden on our city’s leadership by paying them a reasonable salary.
Join me in supporting Sensible Pay for SA by voting yes for Charter Amendment 2 on May 9.
*Featured/top image: San Antonio’s downtown skyline, looking southeast from the top of the Weston Centre. Photo by Kara Gomez.
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