Milwaukie jury: Pay elected officials more
Milwaukie city officials this month received a ruling from a Citizens Jury on Council Compensation calling for increased salaries for elected officials.
Milwaukie city councilors currently get a monthly stipend of $250, with the mayor receiving $300 a month. Milwaukie councilors each get a Microsoft Surface laptop, and the entire council has an annual budget of $9,500 for trainings, memberships and conferences.
Based on the 2007 to 2019 rate of inflation, the majority of 18 jury members recommended on Nov. 12 increasing the monthly stipend amount for the mayor to $369 and for council members to $307. Future biennial budgets would adjust the salaries based on inflation, according to the recommendation.
"Technology tools, public transportation and child/elder care reimbursement (should be) provided on an as-needed basis, to help mayor and council members perform their job," the jury ruled. "Benefits should be capped to not burden the taxpayer."
Before a potential vote on increasing pay for city councilors, Milwaukie officials had asked a nonpartisan group called Healthy Democracy to conduct a scaled-down version of the group's previous panels that deliberate on statewide issues.
In holding citizen juries, Healthy Democracy relies on randomly selected and demographically representative samples of the citizens who would be affected by the issue.
Linn Davis, the project manager for Healthy Democracy, said the question before the Milwaukie jury was deceptively simple. They heard from a range of experts, reviewed briefing materials from the city and deliberated on a recommendation.
Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba has said he doesn't expect the City Council to find new funds for himself or any other of the city's current elected officials. He said he would like to reduce barriers to public service for citizens considering running for City Council in future elections.
"Our state and local systems of government are designed to restrict leadership and policy-making positions typically to older, upper-middle-class white people," Gamba said.
As previously reported, Gamba made his comments during a discussion last December when Milwaukie's elected officials authorized Healthy Democracy to proceed with the citizen jury project. Milwaukie Councilor Lisa Batey said she was not averse to having a discussion about future council compensation, but she would like to see citizens vote on a series of proposed charter changes that creates job descriptions for the City Council, along with fixing miscellaneous other charter issues.
Milwaukie city officials authorized Healthy Democracy to assemble the citizen jury panel to be a "microcosm of the public" — in terms of age, ethnicity, political party, gender and other factors — because city officials said the demographically representative panel's resulting report would come with an inherent legitimacy that sets it apart from conventional citizen committees.
Healthy Democracy Executive Director Robin Teater said the total budget for the Milwaukie project was $20,000, none of which came from the city. Clackamas Community College donated the venue for the four-day jury project. She said the Portland-based nonprofit organization's $15,000 in staff time for the project was funded by individual donors, local and national foundations, and some out-of-state fee-for-service revenue.
City Manager Ann Ober said the City Council will meet in January to consider changes to the upcoming budget to include increases to salaries of elected officials.
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