- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The D.C. Council yesterday postponed decisions on boosting salaries for its members and the mayor, saying the significant increases warranted further public review.

“I support increasing our salaries, but we should do it through the regular process,” said council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “The public perception of our acting on salaries on an emergency basis, I think, is offensive to them.”

Council member Vincent B. Orange proposed raising members’ annual salaries 51 percent, from $92,530 to about $140,000.

His bill was among about 40 pieces of emergency legislation to be considered during the lame-duck session.

Mr. Orange and several other members said the salary issue warrants an additional public hearing or should be introduced as permanent legislation.

The Ward 5 Democrat is leaving the council after an unsuccessful run for mayor. He withdrew the emergency measure and introduced a permanent bill that would increase council members’ salaries 32 percent, to $122,530 a year, with a provision that would raise the incoming mayor’s salary from $152,000 to $200,000.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mendelson and council member Vincent C. Gray introduced two bills that would create an advisory panel to review the salaries of council members every two years.

Mr. Gray, a Democrat who represents Ward 7, will take an at-large seat in January as council chairman.

His bill calls for a panel of five voting salary advisers and one nonvoting member.

Mr. Mendelson’s bill calls for a seven-member panel and for an increase in council members’ salaries to $115,000.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp referred all three bills to the council’s Committee of the Whole, where they will receive a public hearing. The council likely will vote on the permanent bills in a special session next month.

D.C. legislation must receive approval of Congress, which is scheduled to adjourn before the salary proposals can be reviewed. The council likely will have to reintroduce the bills as emergency legislation before the congressional session ends so the pay raises can take effect early next year.

“Whatever happens, we will have to do a piece of emergency legislation in order to [have] these salary changes in place by January 2,” Mr. Orange said.

Council members are considered part-time workers. Their salaries were frozen in 1999 at $92,530 a year. The U.S. Census Bureau shows the median household income in the District was $47,221 last year.

The council yesterday also postponed a salary increase for Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat who currently represents Ward 4 on the council, by striking provisions from an emergency bill that would provide transition funding for him and for Mr. Gray.

Introduced by Mrs. Cropp at the request of outgoing Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the legislation would provide transition costs of $250,000 and $150,000, respectively, for Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray.

It would have increased the mayor’s salary from $152,000 to $200,000, and that of the incoming council chairman to $190,000. The D.C. Charter mandates that the council chairman’s salary be $10,000 less than the mayor’s.

Several council members objected to the emergency salary provisions, particularly with the chairman’s level at $100,000 higher than council members’.

Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, compared the proposed pay raises to a horse and wagon: the mayor’s salary as a horse pulling the chairman’s salary and leaving the rest of the council far behind.

“When we look at the wagon, there are no council members on the wagon,” Mr. Graham said.

The council approved an amended transition bill by a majority vote, with Ward 3 Democrat Kathy Patterson as the lone dissenter. The bill includes $2 million in funding for council staff and services.

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