Mayor Oscar Goodman wants the City Council to tackle one of the thorniest political issues out there: giving itself a raise.
Goodman’s statement Wednesday comes as an attempt to create an independent salary commission through the state Legislature is in danger, according to city staff.
The mayor bluntly stated that the purpose of forming a committee, with members picked by the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader, was to provide some separation from the criticism that almost inevitably erupts when politicians try to raise their pay.
“It would have provided a cover,” he said.
But cover or no cover, the members of the Las Vegas City Council need a raise, Goodman said.
“Council members are working very, very hard, ” he said.
The annual salary for a council member is $45,410.
Though he offered no suggestion as to how much more council members should get, Goodman said he wants the council to vote on raising its pay and making the job full time.
“I’ll vote my conscience,” said Goodman, who is in his final term. “If people don’t like it, they can lump it.”
The positions currently are classified as part-time jobs. Only Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, interim Councilwoman Brenda Williams and Goodman don’t have outside jobs.
Councilman Gary Reese, who owns a barbershop in the city, said the reality of what happens to politicians trying to raise the pay for their positions is: “If we vote for it, some people here will get beat.”
He blamed the media for stirring up public outrage.
“It’s ludicrous,” he said, pointing out that a raise wouldn’t go into effect until a new term begins for a council member.
Goodman, who quit his law practice when he was elected, said his successor would need to work full time to do an adequate job.
“We should not have a plutocracy, where only rich people can have public office,” he said.
The mayor’s job pays $59,657 a year. Both his and the council members’ salaries get adjusted based on consumer price index growth.
But Deputy City Manager Betsy Fretwell said that doesn’t take into account how the job has changed with the growth of the city.
“We’re approaching 600,000 people,” she said. “We’re a big city with big-city issues.”
Reese was elected last month to his final four-year term, and Councilman Larry Brown is in his final term.
The formation of a salary commission is part of an Assembly bill that would make a variety of changes to the city’s charter.
The council amended the bill so that members of the salary commission would be appointed independently of the City Council.
Though the bill made it out of the Assembly committee, Fretwell said the salary commission could be taken out of the bill because of concerns by members of the Senate Government Affairs committee.