Payton Perspective: Supervisors correct mistake on pay raise thanks to people power

Payton Perspective logoBy Allen Payton

On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Supervisors voted to rescind the 33% pay raise that four had voted themselves in November, to avoid a referendum that had garnered almost 40,000 signatures.

I applaud the supervisors for correcting their mistake, which is what the original vote was. I also applaud both the Deputy Sheriffs and the members of Local 1, the county employees’ largest union, who led the referendum effort.

They were exercising our nation’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights “to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances” and our state’s right to a referendum, giving the people the opportunity to undo bad government decisions.

The public was rightfully upset and it showed by how quickly the signature gatherers were able to obtain the necessary total to place the issue on the ballot.

But, the supervisors were able to prevent that from happening, by taking a new vote on the pay raise.

Unfortunately, it appears that some of the supervisors still didn’t get the message, as they continued to make arguments to support their original vote. The humorous thing was that they called it an “adjustment.”

The supervisors had already received a 60% pay raise in 2007, taking their salaries from about $59,000 to over $95,000. The 33% pay raise was on top of that and would have give them a total annual salary of over $127,000. They argued that had they received a 4% raise each year since then, it would have totaled 32%. But, that doesn’t take into account the fact that we had an economic downturn in 2008 and no pay raises were appropriate for years after that.

The bottom line is they were all elected knowing how much they would get paid and earning over $97,000 a year plus a generous benefits package, is pretty good, especially for a second household income for most of them.

Since it’s their responsibility to set their own salaries, the supervisors could have done it when the previous employee contracts came up for approval, and at the most, tied it to the San Francisco Area Consumer Price Index, instead of 70% of the salaries of Superior Court Judges, a position which requires not only a college degree but a law degree, as well. That’s seven years of college. As I touched on when I wrote about this subject, previously, there is no educational requirement to be a county supervisor.

Had they tied it to the CPI, they would have only received a 2.7% pay raise this year and a total of 14.5% since 2009. But, even that would have been too much, in light of the economic downturn and remember, when they raise their pay, it also increases their retirement benefits.

Trying to play catch up all in one fell swoop, years later was just not right and should never be attempted, again.

Hopefully, now they will follow the lead of the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, Candace Andersen, who is the only one to vote against the pay raise, and would only accept what the employees received of about 2-3%, this year.

We shall see. At least for now, the four supervisors, who voted for the raise, were reminded who’s really in charge, here. It’s we the people, and when they do something with which we disagree, we will rise up, take back control of our government, even if for a brief time, and set things straight.

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