LETHBRIDGE CITY COUNCIL
Immediately following the last civic election, city council established a number of strategic initiative committees including the Open and Effective Government Committee (OEG). Members include councillor Bridget Mearns (chair), me (vice-chair), and councillors Jeffrey Coffman and Liz Iwaskiw.
At the initiative of Chair Mearns, one of the discussion items at OEG's first meeting of 2013 was the issue of council remuneration. This discussion will continue in an effort at engaging in a constructive dialogue to see if improvements can be made. What follows is not an OEG report, but rather the observations of one of its members.
We began with a review of how we got to where we are now. The process that your current council followed has its origins in the final years of former Mayor David Carpenter's last term. Up to that point, councils had been approving pay increases effective for the incoming council; an option some residents have suggested would be preferable to the current process.
But back in 2001, that was the process being used. However, it was determined to have become overly politicized, creating a "cynical, no win predicament" that "lacked credibility and left all parties frustrated."
The above analysis is from the report by the Citizen Committee for Council Remuneration that was established by former Mayor Bob Tarleck's first council. It was tasked with attempting to address the problems arising from the "after the next election" process that was in place at the time.
In 2002 council adopted many, but not all of the committee's recommendations with the intent of establishing a long-term, arms-length, depoliticized method for determining council pay. In 2009, council updated this process by including a "market adjustment" review that would be undertaken by the city clerk's office once every three-year term.
In an effort at not re-politicizing the process, or risking a return to "no win predicament" of 2001, your current council accepted the recommendations and did not alter the existing process. Legitimate debate exists as to whether or not that was the correct decision, and I hope this brief history of what got us to this point contributes to that debate.
OEG will continue to discuss this matter over the coming months with the hope of providing some recommendations to council. Are we likely to devise a set of procedures that will satisfy everyone? Probably not; few if any governments ever have. But we can certainly undertake a constructive dialogue about the issue.
The full 2002 report from the Citizen Committee for Council Remuneration can be located on the City of Lethbridge web pages at www.lethbridge.ca.