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October 17th, 2008
Proposition 5: A blank check or justifiable compensation?

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This year’s November 4 General and City Election will provide citizens with several options to amend the City Charter. Among those, Proposition 5 is included, which reads: “The amendment of Section 3.04 of the City Charter to provide that city council compensation shall be set in a public forum by ordinance of the city council.”San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said citizens will have the opportunity to vote on the amendment this year, and added that she understands why the Charter Review Commission considered the change.

“Many people cannot serve, because they can’t afford to,” said Narvaiz. “And I believe that if we can expand the opportunity for an average citizen to step forward and lead us, then that’s a good thing. And if this does that, then to me, that’s the answer.”

City Councilmember John Thomaides said he is generally in support of the proposition, but he warned that ultimately it’s up to the citizens to decide. “I think there’s a trade off in small amounts of compensation,” said Thomaides. “That could encourage citizens who are not retired, are not independently wealthy, to get involved in policy and decision making in our community. I think it could be helpful in that manner, but I don’t foresee the position of city council member ever being a job where you’re going to earn a living from it.”

Narvaiz echoed Thomaides’ sentiment and said City Council will not become an avenue to provide for the household. “I am certainly not afraid of implementing something if I believe it’s going to open up opportunity for people to serve. But keep in mind this is not to replace somebody’s living,” said Narvaiz. She added that if the citizens chose to pass the proposition, it will then begin a public debate in City Council to decide if it will even be implemented. “There’s a public process,” said Narvaiz. “It won’t be hidden. It’ll be very much a public discussion about how we arrive at things that we arrive in the future.”

Although some residents are for the proposition, there are those who are not comfortable with it. President of the Council of Neighborhood Association Camille Phillips said she will vote against the proposition. She said she is not against providing compensation for Council members, but said there must be oversight in the process. “I think the citizens need to be in charge, not City Council,” said Phillips. She said City Council is not influenced by citizen input and went on to say that citizen comments are often neglected in their decisions. She cited the Concho Commons development as an example. “Public hearings are not a check on our City Council,” said Phillips. “They have demonstrated that over and over.” She proposed an alternative option and said the Charter Revision Commission should revisit the idea in two years but with different suggestions. Phillips said the language in a new proposal should not allow City Council to set their own compensation via an ordinance, and instead allocate that decision to a citizen commission or board, thus providing oversight.

“This is about the future of the city,” said Narvaiz. “This is something that I want to hear from the citizens on. If it doesn’t pass then we’ll continue to do what we do now. If it does pass then the Council will take it up in meetings following the election and it will be very public.”

Voters defeated a similar proposition in 2006. The language of the amendment included specific numbers for compensation, $100 per meeting not to exceed $300 a month.

by Andy Sevilla
News Section Editor

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0 thoughts on “Proposition 5: A blank check or justifiable compensation?

  1. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER : Newstreamz San Marcos

  2. I am the president of CONA, but the views quoted above are my own, not those of the organization.
    The League of Women Voters has done their usual excellent job on the Voter’s Guide, and I hope that people will look at it before they vote.
    In the guide the League has included the language that people will see on the ballot AND the proposed language in the charter.
    As people read the voter’s guide, they might compare what’s on the ballot with the language in the charter.
    Does the language on the ballot explain what really would happen?
    Do people realize that voting for proposition 5 means that city council, like Congress, would be able to set their own salary?
    The proposition on the ballot in 2006 was admirably clear and specific, unlike Prop 5 this year.
    Incidentally, I served on the Charter Review Commission several years ago.

  3. I have to agree with Camille Phillips, there must be oversight. However, I think that we should consider passing it now and just express our concerns to the council during the public hearings. I know that some concerned residents feel that the council doesnt really listen to us, but with news outlets covering these stories, I feel that corruption will be less prevalent.. but maybe Im just hopeful. Nonetheless we have to be fully informed of all that will be on the ballot.

  4. I voted for the compensation in the previous election.

    I don’t like this.

    As Camille points out, the last time around it was very easy for everyone to understand what they were being asked and the voters were against it. This time, the intent is less clear and I share Camille’s concerns in that regard.

    If the voters were opposed the first time around, the right thing to do would be to find out why and try to address those concerns and then put it on the ballot again.

    Say what you will about the road bond issue. It has been very clearly explained and the folks who want it passed have done their best to listen to and address the concerns of those who voted against it last time around and they have presented the bond in a way that makes it very easy to understand what we are voting on. There are those who are opposed to the bond and it is also very easy for them to point out where they believe this bond is as bad as, or worse than, the last one.

    The compensation proposition looks more like trying to sneak something past the voters and it makes me uneasy.

  5. Upon re-reading what will be on the ballot, it REALLY makes it sound like we are voting only on whether or not to reimburse Council for actual expenses. The compensation issue is glossed over very quickly, followed by a lot of verbiage about reimbursements. There is little doubt that many people will read this as a proposition to reimburse Council members for the expenses they incur while serving.

    Also, being set in a public forum would lead people who have not been to City Council meetings to believe that they will have a vote in the public forum, when they will not (that I know of). What are the chances that any great number of people will remember to check the agenda to watch for this issue? What are the chances they will go to the meetings? What are the chances that compensation will be set to $0? What are the chances they will set it at, or above the $100 per meeting that was already voted down?

    Even for the most controversial issues, turnout at City Council meetings tends to be less than 100 people. I suspect that turnout for this discussion will be less than 30 people and even if all 30 are opposed to compensation, City Council will be able to easily vote in favor pf paying themselves, based on the implied consent of all of those who did not show up at the meeting.

    Why even invite another conspiracy theory? Why not survey the citizens to see what, if anything, they would be willing to pay City Council and then put it back on the ballot in the same, clear, open and honest manner that it appeared on the ballot last time around?

  6. I, Like Ms. Phillips, support this idea, but will vote against it until there is more oversight. I strongly believe that in a city that is still at a relatively small size, we are capable of giving the voters more say in what our Council members get paid. Setting pay by ordinance is a blank check; the only way that we can classify it as justified compensation is if we, the voters, have more of a say.

  7. After speaking with some people and reading this article, I dont think city council is trying to create themselves a salary through this proposition. I believe they’re encouraging citizens to participate in and run for city offices, city council place 3 is an uncontested race for example, and in my opinion that’s unacceptable! I think this proposition is a good idea, it will increase community participation and will not set a salary, but compensation for attending and working during the meetings and day-long workshops that keep you from being at your actual job.

  8. I agree Steve Harvey, the proposition is too broad, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. We shouldn’t hinder its possibilities now, and instead voice our concerns constantly and everso overwhelmingly at the public hearings. Grass roots movement anybody?

  9. From this article I understand how mayor Narvaiz feels on this issue, what about Newman? McCarthy? Jones? Coppoletta? Why havent any of them commented on this proposition that actually is important, instead of commenting on letters to the editor, that are just opinions. San Marcos needs more public participation in city government, whether it be running for office or speaking on their concerns at city council meetings. How can we ever expect anything to go our way if we dont express our concerns all the time, and not just invest time during the last month or two of an election season. San Marcos we need to get it together, wake up! Hold our officials accountable for the issues at hand, whether good or bad, and question the candidates running for office (seeing as how we’re in midst of an election. Our political culture in San Marcos is extremelty apathetic, but yet we are all ready and willing to gripe and moan about what is going on. Again, WAKE UP!! Put people in office that know what they’re doing, and that have YOUR best interest in mind during policy decisions.
    Mayor Narvaiz may not be perfect (as most will say and I agree, but then again who is?) but she gets things done, she is committed to San Marcos and its citizens. Newman where do you stand on anything!? dont just attack, act. McCarthy, bless his heart, is running an unsuccessful campaign (in my opinion) but he has a conviction – the university – he may not eloquently address his issues, but he tries. Newman does make some good points, but he doesnt seem to have the grasp of what it takes to be mayor.. in the debates he said we need more parking, obviously! but he doesnt provide conceivable plans to fix that. And I dont like how he’s arrogant (on stage at the debates) and just attacks, his supporters provide unattractive attacks as well. To Newman’s credit, I do have to say he is good looking, yum! (kidding). Im not trying to put anyone in a negative light, because all three candidates for mayor could be put in that light, along with all the other candidates for city and county government. (county government is a whole ‘nother hell in and of itself).
    San Marcos wake up, get it together, and vote on tuesday with your mind, your heart and of course your finger. I have to say Im voting for Narvaiz, because of her experience and insight, with our current climate we need someone in there that knows what they’re doing. Im also voting for Conley. I suggest y’all get informed well and cast your vote!

  10. Cristina, Newstreamz did far more reporting on these ballot initiatives than did any other news source, including their arch enemies the mercury. kudos to newstreamz — this is why i read it — but shame on the other so-called newspapers. i say this only because the comments that followed have illuminated some of the issues. it’s about time we appreciate newstreamz for what it is — a message board, not a news source. in that role, it does very well. you want balanced reporting. not here.

  11. Actually I think Newstreamz is a news source, and allows for citizens to trade comments/opinions, making it a message board as well. The current council was interviewed, that’s who advocated this initiative, that is who currently will be affected, therefore the CURRENT council is the one who needed to be interviewed. Since Newstreamz is not a political debate, and is a news source that allows comments, after the CURRENT council was interviewed, I figured Candidates for office (whom are not currently affected by this matter) would take advantage of the available space for comment, and make their opinion on the issue known. Thus allowing us the voters know where they stand.
    I think this proposition was covered adaquately and balanced. The article stated the purpose of the initiative, and provide for and against perspectives. The people who needed to be interviewed, The CURRENT COUNCIL, were. Candidates for office should have taken advantage of commenting on the issue after it was reported on.
    We need to understand that Newstreamz or the Mercury or the Record are not a debate forum, they are news sources. They will cover issues and interview those who are influential in and currently affected by the situation. However, this publication allows for comments, and that’s where the candidates should have jumped on, yet they didn’t. That’s all I wanted, the candidates, perhaps even future leaders’, perspective on the matter, after it was adequately reported on.

  12. Camille Phillips is responsible for the blight in San Marcos. This town is a ghost town compared to what it could be. Bravo!!!

  13. It boggles the mind that this Prop passed. After standing in the long line at the poll on Tuesday and speaking with other citizens about this Prop, it was clear that many of them knew nothing about it. As much as it is their responsibility as citizens to become educated n such things, the fact that this does not happen is alarming when one considers the wording they receive at the voting location. Look at the description of Prop 5 here: http://www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us/cityhall/cityclerk/Elections/docs/Proposed_Charter_Amendments_2008.pdf This wording makes it sound as if the amendment would only be that the decision must be made in a public frum. Those who have not been familiarized with the charter would likely vote in favor of the prop because it sounds as if it would shed light in a previously shrouded practice. If they were aware that the charter refers to these positions as voluntary, maybe they would not be so eager to pass such a proposition.

  14. City Council meets Thursday Jan 22 and agenda item 23 is for the Mayor and Council Members to discuss their compensation. Figured I would jot a note here since the City Council meeting is on a Thursday rather than Tuesday this time, and interested folks may not be aware this is scheduled for the Jan 22 meeting.

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