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It's time to level the playing field for those willing to serve on West Linn's City Council.

West Linn is long overdue for a charter revision to address inequities caused by a paltry salary limit approved in 2008. "West Linn Charter Section 11. Salaries" set an annual salary maximum for the mayor at $6,400 and $4,000 for Councilors that "shall be adjusted for inflation annually based upon the Consumer Price Index for the Portland Metropolitan Area." (This section is also in need of revision because Portland Metro Area CPI no longer exists.)CUMMINGS

Portland Tribune's 3/16/22 editorial, "It's time to pay Oregon legislators a decent wage" argues that "low pay keeps smart but under-funded people from running: Think single-parents, or small business owners, or owners of small farms, or farmworkers." "State Sen. Ginny Burdick used to joke about this in her town halls. 'Are you rich? Retired? A little crazy? Congratulations — you should run for the Legislature.'

"Only it wasn't funny," Tribune editors wrote. "Most people need to be independently wealthy or have a second income to run. We expect our lawmakers to spend their days, evenings and weekends serving us and to have a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of issues ranging from agriculture, health, education, the economy, Human Services, the judiciary and more. We're just not willing to pay them for their expertise."

East Oregonian's 3/22/22 PMG Special Report, "Is serving in Oregon Legislature a rich man's game?" co-authored by Tidings' Holly Bartholomew states that, "Compared to its West Coast neighbors, though, Oregon's legislative salaries are paltry."

"In California, state legislators make well over $100,000 per year, plus per diem. To the north, Washington has an independent salary commission that regularly approves raises for lawmakers, who now make close to $60,000 per year."

Twenty-five mayors from the Metropolitan Mayors Consortium, including Mayor Jules Walters, voiced support for SB1566 in the Portland Tribune 3/22/22, "Missed Opportunity for Stronger Representation in Salem," stating "As elected officials, we know that our democracy is stronger when our government represents the diverse communities it serves. The opportunity to be public servants must be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances.

"Those who have lived experience with the myriad challenges that many Oregonians face should inform the policy and budget decisions that affect their lives. All too often, however, these voices are not at the decision-making table. Oregonians with this lived experience frequently do not have the privilege or means necessary to run or serve in elected office.

"Working people, people of color, and women all have been historically excluded or underrepresented from elected offices at all levels of government. Elected bodies throughout our state continue to be whiter, wealthier, and older than Oregon's general population."

If passed, SB1566 would have made legislator's current $32,839 salary, equal to the average Oregonian's pay, currently $58,443. This seems like a modest proposal because Oregon was ranked the 5th most expensive state to live in, with a cost of living 31.43% higher than the national average.

I completely support Mayor Walters' decision to sign the Metro Mayor's letter and the comments she has made about how unreasonably low the mayor's salary is. It is paltry for sure. Now I hope Mayor Walters will lead the charge to place a measure on the November ballot that will level the playing field for those willing to serve on West Linn's City Council and that it will inspire other cities to follow suit.

Teri Cummings is a former West Linn city councilor.


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