Money is not the sole motivation for Mobile City Councilman John Williams sponsoring an ordinance that would increase the mayorâ€™s salary by more than double its current amount.
On the Feb. 26 agenda, Williams added an ordinance that, if approved, would increase the mayorâ€™s salary to $200,000 from $89,003.20 after the upcoming election. However, the councilman said it wasnâ€™t because he intended the increase to be that much nor was it the sole reason for ordinance.
The ordinanceâ€™s inception was an e-mail from the cityâ€™s administration stating the law called for action or inaction for compensation of councilors and the mayor, Williams said.
He then asked City Council attorney Jim Rossler about sponsoring an ordinance and was informed that the item would have to be on the Feb. 26 agenda.
Law stipulates talk regarding compensation of elected officials must take place at least six months before the election cycle. The municipal elections are Aug. 27 and therefore only six months away.
"I decided to sponsor this ordinance now because one, I had to or it would be too late, and for a number of other reasons. I didnâ€™t just wake up one day and decide to do this,â€ť Williams said.
The position of mayor, Williams said, is "grossly underpaidâ€ť and by adding the ordinance it would start a discussion about the pay for the mayor.
"The premise of this ordinance is I want public discussion, to force a public discussion on the matter for a number of things,â€ť he said. "First, I suggested $200,000 because it was a nice, round number. Now, I think the answer for an adequate salary is between that number and what the salary is now.
"Government seems to have a problem with forming committees, having meetings instead of just talking about an issue.â€ť
This ordinance is another jumping off point to discuss the role of the mayor.
"For the money that the job of the mayor does now, which is to be the CEO who deals with personnel, recruiting businesses, economic development, we are asking a lot and not giving that much,â€ť he said. "If we want our mayor basically to be just a figurehead, then itâ€™s fine, but if not, then there needs to be a pay increase.â€ť
Williams also noted that there are employees under the mayor who make far more than the mayor.
In April 2010, Lagniappe published the salaries of people in the city who make more than the mayor. There were 29 people who made more than Mayor Sam Jones. Public Works Director John Bell makes nearly double the mayorâ€™s salary at $161,333.
Williams said this shows how inadequate the pay is for the mayorâ€™s position.
He also said heâ€™s been approached during his entire time on council about having a city manager.
"This might be the right time to look at or at least start looking at our form of government,â€ť Williams said. "If it is best for Mobile to have a city manager, then we need to work toward that.â€ť
In the council-manager form of government, the council would still perform its duties it does now, which are to set legislation such as ordinances and resolutions. The city manager would act as a CEO in that he or she would make major decisions and represent the people. However, a manager is not elected, but appointed by the elected council. The role of mayor is more of a figurehead in this form of government.
Williams stated this isnâ€™t about a person, but about the position and where the city is headed.
"This isnâ€™t about who is going to be mayor. This isnâ€™t about Sam Jones or Sandy Stimpson. This is about starting a discussion and seeing what is right for Mobile,â€ť he said.
Jones responded via press release saying he was surprised by the ordinance.
"The item on the agenda came as a complete surprise to me. I have had no discussion with anyone concerning this matter. You would think he would have consulted with the person who would benefit from this action,â€ť he said. "This is not the time for any proposal to raise the salary of any elected officials in the city. We should first consider our employees, who are on the front line, providing services to citizens daily. Also, any salary increase should be on a wage comparability that is similar to other cities of our size in Alabama. This proposal does not consider wage comparability or the cityâ€™s current financial condition. I am not a co-sponsor or a supporter of this agenda item.â€ť
Follow-up questions to Jones regarding the reasoning behind Williamsâ€™s intent to introduce this ordinance were not answered.