Friday, November 10, 2000

Hamilton council pay stuck at $300

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Voters this week sent the mayor and City Council members the same message they've sent on 10 previous occasions: no pay raise.

        “It's kind of like we're used to it now,” said Mayor Adolf Olivas, who has served on council for nearly 18 years. “It's an issue that, frankly, I guess we just have to stop bringing up to the voters because they're not going to approve it.”

        Tuesday, voters rejected Issue 6, the charter amendment that would've increased city council's salary from $300 to $5,000, and the mayor's from $10,200 to $15,000. The vote: 12,584 to 6,170.

        Mr. Olivas said the council salary — one of the lowest in the nation for a city of Hamilton's size — discourages some people from seeking office. Hamilton has about 65,000 residents.

        “It's basically become a job that you cannot do unless you have another means of income. It limits it to the retired individuals or individuals who are self-employed or whose jobs are flexible enough to allow some flexibility,” Mr. Olivas said. “But it doesn't allow the blue-collar worker who works 8 to 5 or 9 to 6 to be a part of the system.”

        Resident James Sowell thinks council members should make more money.

        “Nobody is going to work for nothing. In order to get the best, you have to pay. You pay for what you get,” said Mr. Sowell, who has lived in Hamilton for most of his 74 years. “I think one reason why the salary (remains) so low is because they're not getting to the people and sitting down and really explaining things to them.”

        Former Councilwoman Katherine Rumph-Butler said many residents don't realize that members spend countless hours attending council meetings, community activities, civic meetings and addressing residents' concerns.

        “They think that this is a part-time position. They don't think the council members do anything,” said Mrs. Rumph-Butler, who served on council from 1984-95. “I think the citizens do not realize the work that council members put in.”

        Mrs. Rumph-Butler said council members deserve a raise, “but I'm not going to say how much. I really know that they deserve more than $300 a year.”

        Susan Cave, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League, said candidates usually consider other factors besides pay when deciding whether to run for council.

        Councilman Don Ryan said he ran for council because he felt it was his civic duty.

        “I'm doing this because I want to, not because of any monetary or political gain,” he said. The increase “just doesn't matter because one of the fears that I have is that some people would run for council because of the money.”


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