Kevin James the mayoral candidate has taken to the Daily News his proposal to make LA's City Council a part-time crew.
I don't know how well this really pencils out for James. While the LA Councilmembers' offices cost $1.7 million per seat, with twelve percent of the money going to the Councilmember's own salary, it's important to note that each Councilmember in LA represents a population (252,821) close to that of Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 258,379). Granted, they make more than the mayor of Lincoln--but their offices do not come anywhere near Lincoln's city budget.
The L.A. council costs the most per seat, $1.7 million, employs staff of more than 300, and each member receives a car (with parking meter immunity) and a $100,000 yearly taxpayer-financed slush fund.
Having a part-time council in Los Angeles would benefit city governance. In addition to savings, a part-time council provides access to a more diverse field of professionals. A part-time council takes advantage of talent and experience from outside City Hall - and City Hall could use a daily dose of the real world.
And in New York City, each Councilmember reps only 160,297 constituents. James notes that "Six of the 10 largest cities in the nation have part-time councils: New York, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas." I'll note that counter to that, in these cities, the Councilmembers are still compensated handsomely for the "part-time" work they do. New York Councilmembers receive $112,000 a year for their "part-time" status--again, if you pencil it out per citizen, they're compensated almost exactly as much as LA Councilmembers, and of course New York's get to plead "But I'm part-time!" if they're caught slacking.
I don't think James really thought this one through. That's OK, try again Kevin. At least it was an idea, a plan, a hope. Conversely, Mr. Council President Eric Garcetti's most singularly fetching idea so far about reforming Council is...well, I seem to have missed it.
Contestants, taking on the problem of Council is difficult enough--it may be hopeless, in fact, given how few Council districts we have, compared to other cities--but what we expect of mayoral candidates is reasons why you should be our next mayor. I don't know that we've seen real reasons yet.
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