San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 17th, 2009
San Marcos council votes down own pay

The San Marcos City Council voted against accepting compensation Tuesday night. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

(Editor’s note: The following has been revised to correct the order of the vote and include a new quotation from Councilmember Chris Jones.)

Associate Editor

Less than a month after agreeing that city staff should draft an ordinance establishing a pay scale for San Marcos elected officials, those same officials voted Tuesday night against accepting the compensation.

As the result of a suspenseful vote at Tuesday’s meeting of the San Marcos City Council, the mayor and councilmembers will continue working without pay for the time being, even though voters last November passed a proposition allowing them to set their own remuneration.

At a May 21 meeting to discuss preliminary budget matters, councilmembers debated figures for about 45 minutes before settling on $500 per month for councilmembers and $750 per month for the mayor.

However, three weeks of stewing apparently produced a change of heart as councilmembers went through the roll call without even discussing the matter in open session Tuesday night.

Once City Clerk Sherry Mashburn read the ordinance for consideration, Councilmember Chris Jones promptly motioned for approval, followed by a second from Councilmember Fred Terry. At that point, the dais fell silent and Mayor Susan Narvaiz asked Mashburn to call the roll.

Though only about a half-dozen citizens remained in chambers after the council tabled an additional watering day earlier in the evening, an air of disquiet filled the room as the vote began. First, Terry said, “Aye.”

The tide turned when Councilmember Kim Porterfield voted against the motion. Next, Narvaiz voted against, then Councilmembers John Thomaides and Gaylord Bose voted against their own earnings, clinching a majority against council compensation. Jones, casting the final vote, went in favor of the defeated motion.

“(I) could have easily voted ‘no’ to save face, but did not, because I believe council pay levels the playing field for anyone who wants to be a councilmember,” Jones said, “unlike our make-up today where many of my colleagues own their own businesses or serve as a director of community relations.”

Said Porterfield, who was one of the stronger voices against compensation at last month’s budget meeting, “When I ran for this job, it was unpaid public service. That’s what I signed up for.”

Said Narvaiz after the 4-2 vote, “I think that right now, in our current economic climate, it would not be appropriate. We’re just beginning to look at the budget. We need to make sure that the public’s needs are met first. And then we can move forward and agree on what a reasonable compensation would look like.”

The city’s legislators will continue receiving their expense reimbursements, which come to $12,000 per year for councilmembers and $16,000 per year for the mayor.

“Good people will serve without pay,” Bose said. “But if it’s necessary, I agree with (compensation), but we need to have more discussion.”

As the ripples of the national economic crisis are felt locally, Porterfield said she understands the “thinking” behind the compensation – to encourage participation for public office. But, she said, “it would be sending a bad message at this time.”

Narvaiz said council compensation is a step towards planning for the future, energizing “more people to run for office.”

Said Narvaiz, “I think it will come back. It’s not the end of the discussion. But it is the end of it for today.”

Councilmember Pam Couch was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting, nor at the budget discussion last month.

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0 thoughts on “San Marcos council votes down own pay

  1. Very unexpected! The council actually acted responsibly for once. The amount of money they would have been awarded would have been a deliberate slap in the face to the tax payers. We voted down $100 per meeting in 2006. What in the hell would make you think $500 for council members and $750 for the mayor would be acceptable? Im thankful for this vote, hopefully our council will turn a new leaf and begin acting responsible in all matters.
    Although, Im sure compensation will come up again. soon.

  2. It’s funny how the guys who made the motioned and seconded the motion were the only two who voted for it. I do have to say that I understand what Chris Jones is saying, but we cannot pay that much money. We all can agree that we want/need more people seeking public office, bring some new fresh blood into the game, but we must be sensible and intelligent about it. Council needs to adopt a reasonable amount that is acceptable in the eyes of the tax payers. Having SEVERAL public hearings would be a start.

  3. Chris Jones is an absolute idiot. Levels the playing field? Oh cry me a river that those on Council are god forbid accomplished people. Your right Chris we need more idiots to serve who are so meek they need compensation to make ends meet. The city suffers when idiots make being a public servant a career.

  4. I disagree with you Allen. I dont think Chris is being an idiot for voting in favor of this matter, in fact, perhaps the idiot is someone else. How can you just assume someone wants unqualified people running city government. Did you not read the article, several of the council members said compensation would enable more people to run. Ultimately it’s up to the citizens to vote whomever we want into office. Although I disagree with Chris Jones’ vote on the matter, because it is too high of an amount, I can see the reasoning behind his comment and the other members who said they want more participation.

  5. I want to apologize to my council colleagues. I recognize and value the sacrifices made by all councilmembers in their services to the San Marcos community. I agree that my colleagues who own their own business and are directors in their profession are accomplished and have and will continue to work hard at what they do. I value their commitment and mean no disrespect in my belief that council compensation will level the playing field, giving all citizens of San Marcos the ability to effectively serve the community in this capacity.

  6. Why do we need to level the playing field giving all citizens the chance to serve? I don’t want Tom, Dick and Harry to run now they can score some cash in the process. If you can’t afford to serve your City without pay then maybe wait a few years until your more accomplished in life. I feel here in the USA there is growing resentment towards successful and educated people. Do we really need non-successful under qualified people running for Council for the novelty of being progressive?

  7. I am having a hard time believing the elitist tone that is coming from some of these posters.

    Citizens of all stripes and income levels should be able to run for and hold public office and compensating people for the work they do for their government is essential.

    Not only do I support realistic pay for public officials, but until we have publicly-financed campaigns, no one but the wealthy or those carrying the ball for special interests will be able to serve.

    A case in point is our State Legislature. When you pay them only $7000 a year to do a job that takes alot of time and effort, the deck is stacked to have them beholden to special interest money. This is a system set up for failure to represent the average citizen’s interests.

    Holding public office should not be reserved for those who already have enough money that they do not have to hold a regular job.

  8. Wow, Im shocked at what ignorance still resonates with some of our community members. First of all, in America there is absolutely no resentment towards educated and successful individuals, in fact, we encourage that! Secondly, since when are “qualifications” a reflection of what you call success? Success means different things to different people, how about we let the voters decide that who should be in office, not a bigot.
    In order for our city to progress forward we need level-minded individuals serving for the people, not for special interests. Local government is perhaps the most important type of government there is, as it effects us the most directly. We need people in local government from all walks of life, to represent all peoples, and that are sensible to the demands and concerns of their constituents.
    Business owners are not the only citizens who are capable of the duties of an elected official. Nothing against business owners, I applaud their success, but we also need school teachers, minorities, librarians, environmentalists, and joe six-pack to run for office. We need their ideas and innovative suggestions, their insight and representation on the council. Ultimately it is up to us, the citizens, to elect who will serve, but I think REASONABLE council compensation will enable many qualified individuals to make that commitment.

  9. In what world does it make sense to only have the “elite” run the San Marcos city government? I just cannot fathom why any citizen should not be encouraged to run for office, and expect only those with financial means to step up to the plate, and be completely complacent with that scenario. It’s disgusting.

  10. have you seen several of the folks on the Council? If these are the “elite” of San Marcos, we’ve got much bigger problems than any of us realize.

  11. providing some compensation to Councilmembers is generally a good idea, but their timing in considering this is WAY off. You don’t propose something like this when the area unemployment rate is on the way up, etc. Maybe in a year when things have hopefully improved, but not now.

  12. “Business owners are not the only citizens who are capable of the duties of an elected official”

    Well let’s see…

    Bose…Employee, not a business owner
    Thomides…Business owner
    Couch…Business owner
    Porterfield…Employee, not a business owner
    Terry…Employee, not a business owner
    Jones…Employee, not a business owner
    Narvaiz…Business owner

    Looks to me like only 43% of the council are business owners.

  13. If we start paying council, why don’t we also start paying P&Z Commissioners. They meet just as many times per month as council.

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