As you likely know, Tommy Gonzalez, the city’s City Manager, was awarded a $61,040 pay raise by city council on Tuesday. To write that the community is indignant is an understatement. Universally the distaste in the pay raise is based on how the city council handled the measure, as if that’s a surprise to anyone, and because the city’s employees weren’t awarded a raise as well. Intermixed within the ire, is the proposed city tax increases and the numerous projects that have been mishandled by the city.
The blogosphere and the social media outlets have pretty much covered the many reasons why the community is against the pay raise. Some voters have started demanding that their city representatives revisit this issue. Among the issues already covered are the egregious amount of the raise, the timing of it and, of course, the city’s failed projects, like the San Jacinto project. Included in the anger is that, although city employees received a bonus, some of those opposed to Tommy Gonzalez’ pay raise argue that the city’s employees should be given a raise before the city manager is given one.
Although the hypocrisy of how some on city council voted has been touched upon by the debate on the issue, today I want to point out some of the duplicity in more detail.
Only Lily Limon and Carl Robinson voted against the pay raise. Oscar Leeser, as the mayor, only votes to break a tie, however, he has publicly stated that he is against the pay raise. Larry Romero, along with Michiel Noe pushed forth the measure to award Gonzalez the pay raise. Romero stated to KVIA that Tommy Gonzalez had nothing to do with the pay raise and, according to Romero, did not ask any city representative for one.
I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on three important issues.
As is typical with city council that tries to pass controversial issues under the radar, Tommy Gonzalez’ raise was brought up, superficially discussed and passed without any prior notice to the community. No effort was made by Larry Romero, the self-proclaimed proponent of the raise, to bring this issue up for community debate through the news media or through prior notice.
I cannot prove it, because conspiracies are purposely shrouded in secrecy, but it is my belief that the raise was discussed among certain city representatives. If that were the case then those who participated, illegally I might add, would have felt comfortable knowing that they had the votes in place to push the measure through.
Consider this; Larry Romero is unlikely to have pushed forth this measure without knowing that it was likely to pass. He had to have felt comfortable knowing that he had the votes necessary for it to pass. How would he know that without discussing the issue with others?
The other thing to consider is that the threat of a veto by the mayor is subsided when you consider that the mayor is unlikely to publicly rescind a city council vote awarding the city manager a substantial raise. The process allows the mayor, whether he means it or not, to argue that he is against the raise while taking the position that to veto the vote would go against a democratically taken vote.
It is a win, win situation for Leeser. I consider it unlikely that he would veto the measure as it would destroy the façade he is trying to create of a functioning city council.
Claudia Ordaz & Peter Svarzbein
Claudia Ordaz voted on Monday against giving the city’s employees a $1,000 one-time bonus. Ordaz argued that she did not want the bonus to affect the city’s tax rate. Claudia Ordaz was referring to the one-time bonuses that would end up raising taxes.
Like, Ordaz, Peter Svarzbein voted against giving the city’s employees a one-time $1,000 bonus. Svarzbein also argued against raising taxes.
Yet, both Ordaz and Svarzbein voted to give Tommy Gonzalez the $60,040 pay raise. Although Gonzalez’ pay raise does not necessitate a tax increase the inconvenient question becomes, what message are Ordaz and Svarzbein sending to the city employees by their votes.
Ordaz and Svarzbein were the only two votes against giving the employees their one-time bonus.
Had Ordaz and Svarzbein voted against the pay raise for the city manager it is likely the raise would not have been approved.
Although I already alluded to it at the beginning, it is worth repeating here again.
There is some discussion, emanating principally from Lily Limon about having Oscar Leeser veto the vote on the pay raise for the city manager. I am not really convinced that Oscar Leeser would exercise his veto power, regardless of the political rhetoric he expresses about the pay raise. Leeser is attempting to add to the façade that all is well at the city and a veto would expose that as a lie.
Vetoing a pay raise for the city manager will put pressure on Tommy Gonzalez to look elsewhere for the simple reason that having city council takeaway the pay raise, once it was given to him, will expose how dysfunctional the city government is.