Santa Monica: Roll back executive pay

The hiring of a replacement for exiting city manager Rod Gould provides Santa Monica with the chance to begin -- at the top -- the difficult but necessary task of reducing the outrageous salaries paid at upper levels of city staff.  

Gould's annual haul -- at least $352,889 -- beggars the imagination. For comparison, the compensation paid the mayor of the City of New York -- you know, with its $70 billion budget and its 325,000 employees -- is $225,000, and the People get to do the hiring! In 2012, Governor Jerry Brown took home $165,288  -- it shouldn't require a sacrifice to go from running the City of Santa Monica to governing the State of
California. Even limiting comparison to other charter cities, Santa Monica's salary schedule is out of whack: the city manager in Culver City, for example, tops out at $256,139.00 and Newport Beach's at $282,318.00. The National League of Cities latest figures (for 2009 -- five years ago, so inflation may have pushed some numbers higher; but, also, not reflecting the implosion and stagnation of the economy since) show the national average remuneration for chief administration officer/city manager as $106,408 and, by way of comparison, for chief law enforcement official as $82,015, in stark contrast to pay in Santa Monica for jobs like city attorney -- $294,878 -- and assistant city attorney -- $295,243, or assistant city manager -- $283,312 (not to mention a police sergeant racking up $293,264 with overtime). While the League of Cities averages include municipalities in areas of the country that have lower costs of living than west Los Angeles, they also include towns that are much bigger, much more problem-riddled, and much less pleasant and prestigious to work in. 

Typically, when a city bureaucracy tries to lower its costs of doing business, it begins by cutting services, reducing staff or getting lower-level employees to accept less in pay and benefits. With the change of administration, Santa Monica has a unique opportunity: reducing the burden of staffing at the executive level is -- economically, politically, morally -- the right thing to do.

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