Local view: Council missed with salary voteThe Duluth City Council missed the mark Monday when it voted to increase the mayor’s salary. It was true the amount hadn’t been adjusted in years and our current mayor has been very active and even more popular, but there are a few points that could have been given more consideration.
By: Garner Moffat, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth City Council missed the mark Monday when it voted to increase the mayor’s salary. It was true the amount hadn’t been adjusted in years and our current mayor has been very active and even more popular, but there are a few points that could have been given more consideration.
Such salary increases should be based on the job position, not the individual holding the office. They also should take place after an election and not be for a current officeholder. If the council believes the position, not the officeholder, warrants a pay increase, that raise should be implemented after an election cycle.
The following is a list of the state’s 10 largest cities and the salaries of their mayors: Minneapolis, population 382,578, mayor’s salary $105,068; St. Paul, population 285,068, mayor’s salary $111,635; Rochester, population 106,769, mayor’s salary $33,123; Duluth, population 86,265, mayor’s salary, $78,000; Bloomington, population 82,893, mayor’s salary $26,400; Plymouth, population 81,803, mayor’s salary $14,004; Brooklyn Park, population 75,758, mayor’s salary $17,100; St. Cloud, population 65,842, mayor’s salary $45,000; Eagan, population 64,206, mayor’s salary $13,625; and Woodbury, population 61,961, mayor’s salary $8,520.
The only cities on this list where the mayor makes a higher salary than Duluth’s mayor are Minneapolis and St. Paul.
If you assume through city charters mayors have similar mayoral duties, the work load should increase roughly in proportion with the population. Per resident represented, Duluth is paying more than two times what the closest comparable cities are paying their mayors. In fact, Duluth pays its mayor more than three times what Minneapolis pays per resident represented.
In Minneapolis the mayor makes 27 cents per resident represented. In St. Paul the mayor makes 39 cents per resident. In Rochester the mayor makes 31 cents per resident. In Duluth the mayor makes 99 cents per resident. In Bloomington the mayor makes 31 cents per resident. And in Plymouth the mayor makes 17 cents per resident represented.
Another factor is cost of living. According to salary.com, the cost of living in Duluth is 9.2 percent lower than in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Finally, salary comparisons with other positions in our city should have been more carefully considered before the City Council voted. The position is public service and should be at least competitive with private-sector jobs to entice qualified candidates. According to the U.S. Census website, Duluth’s median income is $41,116 while the mean income here is $56,671. Many communities adjust officeholders’ salaries to move with these numbers as inflation changes them. If citizens do better financially, so do the elected officials. Performance-based results are seen as a responsible way to use public money and take personal politics out of raises. It is reasonable to compare the large differential and assume we can attract quality candidates while still using public money responsibly.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness showed real class this past week by looking at the raise objectively and announcing that he would not accept the increase in pay, citing that any raise should begin after an election cycle and his concern that the increase itself is comparable to what others in the city are making.
If city councilors were really looking for opportunities to help with wages, they missed the mark.
Garner Moffat of Duluth serves on the Duluth Planning Commission and as vice president of the Lincoln Park Business Group. Previously, in St. Cloud, Minn., he served 11 years on its City Charter Commission and on other committees, including a Mayor’s Salary Review Committee.