- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The D.C. Council yesterday gave preliminary approval to its own 24 percent pay raise, meaning council members soon will be paid more than double the median income in the city they represent.

“I took a 40 percent salary cut to run for this job,” said council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat who voted for the pay raise yesterday. “This issue was thrust upon us, but once the issue was there the law requires that I vote on it, so I voted.”

The council approved the raise on its first reading during a marathon day in which members took up a number of pieces of permanent and emergency legislation.

The raise likely will be given final approval during a special legislative session Dec. 19.

The pay increase was proposed by council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, and Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. It will raise members’ salaries from $92,530 to $115,000. The median household income in the District last year was $47,221, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The bill also will raise the incoming mayor’s salary from $152,000 to $200,000 and the incoming council chairman’s salary to $190,000. The D.C. Charter mandates that the chairman’s salary be $10,000 less than that of the mayor’s.

Council members have been quick to note the disparity between the salaries of the chairman and regular members, who have not received a pay increase since 1999.

“The salary increases are way out of whack with each other,” Mr. Mendelson said.

The measure was approved by a 7-3 vote, with council members Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat and incoming mayor, and Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat and incoming council chairman, recusing themselves. Council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, had to leave early because of illness and did not vote.

There was little debate over the proposal, although council members have discussed a pay increase fervently in the past.

“Council members are very uneasy debating their salaries,” Mr. Mendelson said. “This pay raise reflects what the 1999 salary would be with inflation over the last eight years.”

The increase will go into effect in January.

Mr. Mendelson’s bill also would create a six-member commission to review the salaries of council members, council chairman and the mayor.

A bill that backs a new central library on the site of the old convention center in Northwest did not come up for a vote last night. The estimated $275 million project has been seen as a legacy for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, but was strongly opposed by some council members as well as residents who want to renovate the existing Martin Luther King Memorial Library.

The bill was tabled in the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation last month, but committee Chairman Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, attempted to get it out of committee. Members debated doing so for about an hour, but the motion ended in a 6-6 tie and failed.

Other measures that the council approved yesterday include:

• Mr. Williams’ updates to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a road map for development that has not been revised since 1984.

• A bill requiring developers to adhere to “green” environmental standards. The proposal will require most private and public building projects in the District to adhere to standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council by 2012.

• A plan to revitalize a 24-acre site that currently houses the Capital City Market in Northeast. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat, spearheaded a movement to get the watered-down bill out of the Committee on Economic Development over the objections of Mrs. Ambrose, the committee’s chairman. The bill was approved by the council as an amendment to another bill.

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