By Greg Cahill
SAYING that they work hard for their money, the five members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to give themselves a 10 percent pay hike over the next three years.
Under the new changes, supervisors--who earn $64,851 a year--will receive a series of three annual raises--4 percent the first year and 3 percent in each of the next two years--totaling $71,336.
That is far short of the 15 to 20 percent raise that Supervisors Mike Cale and Tim Smith had wanted, but still too much for one critic. Bill Pisenti, president of the Redwood Empire chapter of TRIM (Tax Reform Immediately), warned the supes that the salaries of all county employees should be re-evaluated to prevent what he called an inappropriate payout to public servants. "When is the government going to do something for the taxpayers?" he asked the supes during a public hearing on the matter. "You keep raising salaries and pensions. Where we're headed is for a downfall. The youth of today are going to pay for it."
For the past 23 years, the supervisors' salaries have been based on a formula that granted them 55 percent of the earnings of a Superior Court judge, based on rates set by the state Legislature. The new ordinance will set the proportional amount at 80 percent of a judge's salary.
"There is no rhyme or reason for this approach," newly appointed Sonoma County Administrator Mike Chrystal said of the existing rate.
While supervisors had received no pay increases for four of the past 10 years, they had gotten two large raises in the past two years. In 1998, the consolidation of the county courts resulted in pay hikes for judges and a 9 percent increase for the supes, whose pay went from $53,768 to more than $58,607. Last year, another judicial raise led to an increase for supes to $64,851, or 11 percent.
The average pay raise for most Americans is 3 to 4 percent a year.
This week's pay hike had the blessings of the Sonoma Alliance, an influential business group, and the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association.
County Administrator Chrystal said the supes deserved the raise because they were underpaid relative to those in other counties of like size and because they performed many tasks on a full-time basis.
"I don't do this with any trepidation at all," Smith said of the salary increase. "There needs to be a fair and equitable salary for doing this job in the future."
Supervisor Cale echoed those sentiments, adding that "if you want the cream of the crop coming in [to public service] to put up with the flak that we do, then [the raise] is highly justified."
Not all municipal lawmakers are comfortable with the hefty raises granted by the state Legislature of late. For instance, most of the 15 members of the Los Angeles City Council have announced that they won't accept their most recent raises, and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has said he will accept only $1 of his latest raise.
Sebastopol Bans Aerial Spraying
THE POSSIBILITY that the county agricultural commissioner might order aerial spraying to control the glassy-winged sharpshooter--a newly found vineyard pest that could devastate the region's $2 billion wine industry--has prompted the Sebastopol City Council to call for a ban on the spraying.
While county officials have said they will first consider ground spraying of powerful pesticides designed to kill the pest, Sebastopol City Councilman Larry Robinson proposed the ban to get a jump on the situation before the county acts. In what is seen as a largely symbolic act, the ban also calls on the county to employ nontoxic methods to eradicate the sharpshooter.
The council approved the ban on a 3-0 vote; Robinson was absent.
Earlier this year, Robinson led a successful bid to have Sebastopol designated as the county's first pesticide-free zone, banning the use of the toxins by city work crews, fashioning the restrictions on a similar ban in the Humboldt County community of Arcata.
On Tuesday, several speakers urged the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to explore nontoxic control methods for the bug. The supes responded with indifference and even laughs. One speaker told the supes that a proposal to enforce mandatory ground spraying of pesticides in backyards was "not a war against the glassy-winged sharpshooter but a war against our own property owners."
The ban--which Sebastopol City Council members hope will spur similar measures in other Sonoma County cities--has infuriated county officials, who have accused Sebastopol of stepping on their jurisdictional turf.
From the June 22-28, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
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