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Mayor Bill de Blasio Signs City Council Raises Into Law

By Jeff Mays | February 19, 2016 2:36pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation at City Hall Friday boosting the pay of the city's elected officials.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation at City Hall Friday boosting the pay of the city's elected officials.
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Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio said the City Council pay raises he signed into law Friday were fair even though a commission he appointed recommended a lower hike.

The Quadrennial Advisory Commission suggested that council members' salaries be increased 23 percent from $112,500 to $138,315 and the speaker's salary jump 12 percent from $137,500 to $154,375.

The bill de Blasio signed pushed members' salary to $148,500, a 32 percent increase, and boosted the speaker's salary 20 percent to $164,500.

"The salary increases in this legislation are fair when you consider both the reforms that are being enacted and the amount of time that has passed since the last Quadrennial Commission, almost a decade, and how hard our elected officials work," de Blasio said at a City Hall bill signing Friday.

"Public service is by definition a 24/7 calling that is necessary for a public servant to be on call every hour of every day to work every single day on behalf of the people they represent."

The council said the additional pay boost was to address its decision to make members' positions full-time and eliminate almost all outside income except that from teaching.

"This ensures that the New York City's legislative body will never succumb to the kind of corruption that we've seen in other places," said Councilman Ben Kallos.

Other ethics changes passed along with the pay increase include eliminating stipends, known as "lulus," for leadership and committee chairs and agreeing to make financial disclosure forms available online.

The chair of the Quadrennial Commission said he did not agree with the City Council boosting its pay above what the commission recommended, but said the ethics changes that come with the new salary are worthwhile.

"While we would not have made that particular change and didn't, this law overall is highly progressive in the history of the city and for the city," Fritz Schwartz said.

None of the other elected officials' salaries studied by the commission, including the mayor, whose salary will increase increase to $258,750 from $225,000, was increased beyond what the commission recommended.

De Blasio said he will not accept the 15 percent increase to his own salary unless he is elected to a second term.

The legislation the mayor signed also calls on future commissions to take place in the third legislative year of a 4-year term so that any requested salary increases would not start until after the next election.

While the raises will be retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year, the ban on outside income will not kick in until the next term.

Very few council members actually receive outside income. The commission found fewer than 10 members who did.

Dick Dadey, executive director of good government group Citizens Union, said he came to the bill signing with "mixed feelings."

While he praised the good government reforms the Council was enacting, he said the body "acted too quickly in deciding" the issue of eliminating outside income without having a larger public discussion.

"We wanted to see not a ban, but a cap on outside income because we want to make sure everyone in our city can run for office," especially now that there are term limits, Dadey said.

"It's important that those who want to keep their affiliations with their businesses and their practices still open should be able to do that," he added.

Dadey also said he was disappointed that 37 council members had pledged not to accept the raise but will be doing so anyway and that the elimination of lulus was not permanent.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, said the legislation was not perfect but still represents "historic" changes.

"We should not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good," Lerner said.

Even though the council raises are beyond what the commission recommended, Lerner, said they were within the range of what her group recommended to the commission.

"On balance," she said, "this is a really admirable package, which parts of should be tweaked in the future."