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With 52% Pay Raise, Atlanta City Council to be Sworn In

What do you expect from this city council as it moves forward into a new term?

Atlanta city council chambers. Credit: Patch file
Atlanta city council chambers. Credit: Patch file
Not much has changed with the look of the Atlanta City Council, which will only have two new faces among the 16-member board who will be sworn in on Monday, Jan. 6.

What will be different is the amount of money the council makes this term as the new year kicked in a 52 percent pay raise that the council voted for and the mayor did not block in December 2012.

That’s when the council voted 10-4 to reward itself a pay increase from $39,473 a year to $60,300. District 6 Councilman Alex Wan was among the 10 who voted for the raise. Other councilmembers who voted favorably included Cleta Winslow, Howard Shook, Felicia Moore, Yolanda Adrean, Joyce Sheperd, Michael Julian Bond, and outgoing councilmen Aaron Watson and H. Lamar Willis.

District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall was among the quartet who voted against it. Also voting nay were Natalyn Archibong, Keisha Lance Bottoms, and C.T. Martin. Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. was not present.

While the council has not received a pay increase since 2005, with the pay hike, the council’s annual salary has now almost tripled in the last dozen years.

When the ordinance was approved, councilmembers expressed the fact that they routinely work upwards of 60 hours per week on matters ranging from committee and neighborhood meetings, various taskforce and commission obligations, to community emergencies and other constituent needs.

Due to the responsibilities of the job, many councilmembers said through a news release that have either reduced outside employment status to part time or have relinquished outside employment entirely to better serve their constituencies.

The compensation, including $62,000 for the council president, is still lower than that of their counterparts in cities such as Boston, Milwaukee, Denver, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. While these cities are similar in population and budget, Atlanta elected leaders have said they have a more expansive oversight responsibility, including that of managing the world’s busiest airport as well as the city’s massive sewer and water operations.

In recent years, the council has largely sided with Mayor Kasim Reed on significant issues such as pension reform and the new Atlanta Falcons stadium. But with the return of Post 2 at-large Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who served on the council from 2002-2009 before an unsuccessful run for mayor, and the addition of newcomer Andre Dickens to the Post 3 city-wide seat, there could be more discussion among councilmembers on controversial legislation.

Regardless, given the significance of council’s self-imposed pay increase, it would appear they will be scrutinized by their constituents more so than ever before.

Will you be watching, and what do expect from this city council as it moves forward into a new term?

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