By Craig Gilbert/London Community News/Twitter:@CraigbGilbert
Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher is not keen about people laughing at his municipal paycheque.
Apparently that’s the case at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where he represents The Forest City.
He said members from other city councils describe the compensation package offered to citizens who successfully run for municipal office in London as “a joke.”
“We are way, way, way behind the eight ball on this.”
The comment came as the city’s Strategy Priorities and Policy Committee voted to appoint new members to the Council Compensation Review Task Force.
The councillor spoke to the stipulation that members of this task force must not have previously served with that particular group. He said he wanted to make sure that was crystal clear as the city re-advertises to fill the final position on the panel.
“We need to make sure we don’t go into this with a regressive (state of) mind,” Usher said.
He is worried that an “old guard” of people with previous municipal entanglements could go into the exercise with a preconceived notion of how the compensation review should go. Specifically, he is concerned potential members would come in with an agenda to justify freezing compensation levels for councillors or even reducing them without objectively analyzing the situation first.
Mayor Joe Fontana said he puts in between 80 and 90 hours of work for the city each week, and that his colleagues on council must be at around 40 or 50 hours themselves.
City Manager Art Zuidema acknowledged joining council was a big job.
“A decision to provide public service to the community is not easily quantified by a measure of time,” he said. “It is a very extensive commitment to the public service in terms of functioning as a member of a council. To try and describe it as part- or full-(time) may not be doing full justice to the significant commitment.”
He said the task force’s first job would be to decide whether or not they would be guided by the concept held by some that compensation for those in public office should be lower than for that of a member of a board in the private sector.
“Are we to discount what would be normal remuneration because it’s public service?”
According to Zuidema the task force was expected to make recommendations by November of next year. Any changes would take effect the next term of council.
The committee voted to appoint Vanessa Junior and Susan Toth as citizens-at-large. They will join Jeff Macoun (London Chamber of Commerce), Paul Way (London Chamber alternate), Sandy Levin (Urban League of London), Gordon Saylor (Urban League alternate), Mike Parkinson (London District Labour Council), Jennifer King and Michael Lodder (both of the Human Resources Professionals of London).
The committee also voted 11-4 to direct the city to engage consultant McDowall Associates at a cost of no more than $12,000 to help the task force do its work. The cost “can be accommodated” within the city’s operating budget. T.L. Dobbie Consulting will also be available to help thanks to an existing contract previously approved by council.
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