Today’s letter to the editor from Candidate Keith Mashburn:
In light of the situation in the city of Bell, the Acorn recently identified the salary of our council members at about $14,000 annually. As it turns out, this is not the total compensation the taxpayers provide to our council members.
In addition to the salary, a council member receives an additional $400 per month car allowance. What most people are not aware of is that council members also receive medical benefits as well as retirement benefits and other forms of benefits.
For them to be compensated with benefits from a part-time public service position that are normally reserved for full-time employment is excessive. A council member’s total compensation reaches about $53,000 per year.
I currently pay $1,400 per month for my medical insurance. I am not running for City Council so the taxpayer can pay my medical insurance and provide me a second retirement for part-time work.
If elected, I will not accept these benefits and will move for their elimination. And under all circumstances, whenever the question is asked about pay, the total compensation package will be reported.
I am running for council because I want to give back, not receive. Every citizen should rest in the fact that they get quality representation for the lowest cost possible; unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening on any level of government today.
The taxpayers of Simi Valley deserve to know exactly how much they are paying their elected officials. After all, they are paying the bills.
Council Member Glen Becerra indicated in our live discussion on Tuesday night that he didn’t join the City Council for the pay. I believe him. I don’t think any of the candidates I’ve spoken to have ever led me to believe that. Benefits or total compensation aside, I don’t believe the pay can be a motivator. The hours, commitment, exposure to public scrutiny, etc., cannot be easier to swallow by taking home $14K a year, even if the benefits that come with it are juicy. You either have a passion for the community, or you don’t. No one is doing it for the pay.
Regarding transparency of figures, I don’t believe these numbers were as transparent as we’re supposed to believe. It’s on the website now, but it wasn’t before the Bell scandal. Transparent now, yes! Transparent last year, no way. The information was available to anyone who asked, but to the casual website browser, you weren’t going to find the details. If you wanted it, you could get it, but it was not a “transparency of government” situation in the true sense of the phrase.
Regarding the total compensation figure of approximately $53K annually, I’ve argued whether or not the figure is fair. I think the figure is a fair representation of the work we expect from a City Council Member of a city like Simi Valley. Note: I have to claim ignorance regarding the technique of deferring health benefits to later in life — I do not know if that’s a practice that any Council Members engage in. To me, it comes off like a way to cheat the system, but perhaps I need to be better educated on the topic.
Council Members have been criticized for not knowing the $53K figure. There’s a total bottom-line cost for every employee of every company or organization. In most cases, the employee doesn’t have a break down of those figures. Over 10 years ago, I worked for a website development company as a programmer. I was paid $73K per year. I received benefits, a 401K, paid time off, and participated in a stock purchase program. About a year after leaving that company, my former boss shared with me that my actual cost was about $97K annually, including not only my gross pay, but the additional costs for my benefits and 401K matching. I was shocked. I always considered myself someone who made $73K on paper, but took home barely 60% of that. The $97K figure never factored into my thoughts. When I ask others what they think they cost their employer, most people simply rattle off their gross pay like I did.
I bring this up to demonstrate just how complicated it is for me to wrap my head around this topic to determine what’s right or wrong. I applaud Keith Mashburn for considering the taxpayers. But I’ve said it before, I wouldn’t object if he changed his mind on this position. If the obligations and commitment to being a City Council member are what I’ve been led to believe, as a taxpayer it would not bother me knowing they were compensated beyond their $14K salary.