Diving In With Both Feet On Council Compensations

Rose-City-Politics-Windsor-Essex
Home » City » Rose City Politics » Diving In With Both Feet On Council Compensations

Rose City Politics – Diving In With Both Feet On Council Compensations

The City of Windsor’s Council Compensation Review Committee reviews remuneration/compensation and benefits paid to the Mayor and City Councillors, as well as equipment and staffing resources, with a mandate to make recommendations, which would come into effect January 1, 2023 for the new term of Council. For this edition of Biz X, three of the four members of the Rose City Politics panel give their views on the compensation issue.

ROSE CITY POLITICS Jon Liedtkey

Jon Liedtke

A politician known for establishing a regime of patronage once said “A politician who is poor, is a poor politician.”

While the adage is classist and not applicable to Windsor, deliberately keeping political salaries low distorts the political process in a way similar to patronage: acting as gatekeeper for who can serve.

As a child I remember hearing something attributed to a then-City Councillor when discussing whether the role should be “full time,” that it would be impossible to recruit lawyers with a salary of $70k.

“What lawyer would work for $70,000 annually?’’ You can probably guess the career of the politician who professed that gem.

But, it speaks to a serious question — who do we want representing Windsorites on council? Who are we able to recruit to run when the salary is part time with full time (and more) hours?

City Council members last received raises in 2019, the first since 2005, with total Councillor remuneration going from $40,180 to $45,957 plus an all-inclusive amount not tied to boards.

While the role of a City Councillor is part time, those who care, perform the job full time, often over time, the latter without pay.

It would be remiss not to mention that our Mayor’s salary was $194,280 in 2019, while that of the City Of Toronto’s Mayor was $197,279.

The facts remain clear — Windsor has an $889-million operating budget. Who do you want responsible for your tax dollars? Someone working part time?

So what’s needed?

  • Raise Councillor salaries to attract diverse candidates. Windsor only has one woman on council. It’s 2022. What gives? Council only has one blue-collar member — in the automotive capital of Canada.
  • Lower the Mayor’s salary and office budget.
  • Annually raise Councillor salaries pegged to inflation and review every two terms.
  • Provide support staff for Councillors and increase annual expenses; Councillors need the tools to best represent their constituents.

It’s time to change the status quo and get more diverse candidates to run for office — and win — and one way to do that is raising salaries and providing necessary tools.

Jon Liedtkeis a Commentator for AM 800, Co-host and Producer of Rose City Politics, a business consultant, serves on Artcite’s Executive Board, and is a band member of Windsor’s The Nefidovs.

ROSE CITY POLITICS Doug Sartori

Doug Sartori

Based on their survey, Windsor’s Council Compensation Committee seems to be taking a thorough look at what the public thinks is fair compensation for the Mayor and City Council.

That’s an important element in defining appropriate pay, perhaps the most important element to get a sense of public opinion on. I hope in their recommendations they also consider the appropriate political balance between Mayor and Council.

Right now, Windsor’s Councillors are compensated for part-time hours with a small support staff to help handle requests from constituents. If they were paid for full-time hours they would be in line with private sector salaries for skilled workers or middle managers.

The Mayor’s pay reflects a well-paid top management position and comes with a large staff and lavish budget. This is a somewhat extreme example of a typical pattern in Ontario municipalities.

It is right for the job of Mayor of a large Canadian city to be well-compensated. It’s a position that must be all-consuming if it is to be done well. If you want capable people to apply for the job, it must be well compensated. This is not in itself a problem, necessarily.

The problem with our current setup is twofold.

Councillor pay is unreasonably low considering the workload and expectations. In practical terms this means that many Council seats are occupied by retirees and people whose day jobs require little work. Considering that the Council is our recruiting pool for future Mayors, this policy starves the city of viable potential candidates.

At the same time, the huge imbalance in staff resources between the Mayor and Council, creates a situation where it is very difficult for Councillors to work independently and pursue ideas that do not come out of the Mayor’s Office. An unscrupulous Mayor can abuse the extensive communication power of the office to promote themselves using city resources.

If the goal is good governance and to attract the strongest leaders possible to serve on Council, the current arrangement falls far short of the ideal. It should change.

Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy firm in downtown Windsor.

Don Merrifield Jr.

Don Merrifield Jr.

It is that time in the term of council to do their scheduled compensation review.

The last review resulted in an 18% pay increase to around $195,000 for the Mayor, and 15% increase to around $46,000 for Councillors. According to the report put out by the committee at the time, this was the average pay for a Mayor of a “Tier 1” city, although it did state there were not many that fell into that category.

Using salaries from regional Mayors and Councillors, the Mayor was receiving about $25,000 more and Councillors were receiving $22,000 less on average.

At the time, the five person committee consisted of an ex-City lawyer, two board members that deal with the city, and the CEO of the hospital.

Personally I don’t see that as an “objective community committee”.

This time around it is a three person committee that seems a bit less connected to the Mayor.

The city did have a community input survey and meeting — but as is usual in Windsor — community input and meetings felt more like, as the Mayor once put it: “theatre and a show” for decisions that have already been made.

My personal opinion is Councillors should be compensated relative to the averages and get big increases, whereas the Mayor should really be compensated according to the relative averages too.

We all know the odds of that are nil.

One factor I doubt is included, is the community’s average incomes when figuring out compensation rates.

Like property tax rates, that should always be factored in. Communities’ “ability to pay” never seems to be an input.

Given this, in my business in the future, when I put up a property for sale I will have a committee of my own to review my fees with the property owner. The committee will consist of my Broker, two fellow Real Estate Agents, my mom and two best friends, in an effort to keep it objective and fair.

Don Merrifield Jr.is a REALTOR serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 years, a Co-Host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a father and grandfather, a former professional musician, and a former Ward 3 City Council candidate.

Facebook Comments

Previous ArticleNext Article
blank
Rose City Politics debuted for the first time in Biz X magazine in February 2021. The Rose City Politics panel analyzes, breaks down, and critiques local political issues that affects each and every Windsor resident. The views and opinions expressed by the panel do not necessarily reflect those of Biz X magazine or its advertisers.