Just a handful of people signed up for the first public hearing on city council’s proposed 28.5% pay raise Monday evening. One of those was former council member Rupert Cutler who supported council giving themselves a pay raise.
Cutler said he was speaking from experience and that there was “more to serving [on council] than meets the eye. These jobs demand considerable time from work and family.” He said he understood that it was a touchy subject but that people should understand that the large time commitment hurts the income from their day jobs.
“We are well governed – you get what you pay for,” he said.
Not everyone was in agreement with that statement.
Robert Lynch defined a raise as the peoples’ work performed for exemplary service. After listening to several unanimous rezoning votes by council for business use he said, “All you all do is big businesses work.” As a resident in the Huff Lane neighborhood he harkened back to their 4-3 vote to commercialize the Huff Lane School property. He accused them of not listening to the people. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended against the hotel development.
Victoria Thomas agreed saying she was appalled that they were pushing for a 28% raise for themselves. She recalled that Mayor Bowers had said he was concerned about Roanoke’s fiscal cliff. “These are troubled times,” she said. “It’s not designed to be a replacement salary.”
Thomas said that council was out of touch with the constituents and the other cities who pay their officials a higher salary have budgets over $500 million. Roanoke City’s budget is about half that at $260 million for fiscal year 2014.
She made an accusation saying that other councils serve the people rather than “a political career path.”
Several citizens left web posts on TheRoanokeStar.com saying they didn’t understand how council had money to give themselves a pay raise after saying the city could no longer afford leaf pickup each fall.
No comment was made by council members and there will be another opportunity for the public at the June 3 city council meeting.
In other business:
City Council interviewed six more applicants for Roanoke City’s school board. Mary Nash and Annette Lewis were interviewed at a previous council meeting.
Stewart Barnes, Reverend Timothy Harvey, William Hopkins, Jr., Gloria Manns, Charles Meidlinger and Suzanne Moore were the applicants left to be interviewed. Five speakers came to the podium Monday evening to advocate for the applicants.
A public hearing for the sale of the old YMCA property took a turn when Roger Malouf, a real estate broker and Republican candidate for Commissioner of the Revenue offered $50,000 for the property. City council had already sifted through the offers and awarded the property to Faizal Kahn for $10.
The old YMCA came into the city’s hands when they agreed to swap it for the land where the new YMCA now sits. Two other awards fell through for lack of bank financing.
Malouf was unimpressed by what he called advertising to only selective developers. Councilman Dave Trinkle said, “We’ve been very, very public about this.” Court Rosen said it was too late to come with another proposal. He called it “unique to make an offer at a public hearing.” He didn’t warm to the idea of throwing it against the wall for just more money. Council then voted unanimously to sell the property to Mr. Kahn.
By Valerie Garner