Every campaign season, we inevitably hear a candidate making promises that even they know they can’t keep.
This year, the Mercury News-endorsed candidate for San Jose mayor, Matt Mahan, is promising he will hold elected officials and top bureaucrats accountable by ending automatic raises and tying salaries to results. If you agree with that catchy campaign promise, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that it already happens.
Our city charter already requires councilmember salaries be set by an independent commission with the authority to seek public input and to consider many factors, including the effectiveness of the council, when determining an increase to their salaries.
Just a few years ago, before Councilmember Mahan was elected, my San Jose City Council colleagues and I placed an initiative on the ballot to change the process and give an independent commission full and final authority to set our salaries. Prior to this, the City Council had to vote to approve the commission’s recommendations, and our own salary adjustments. San Jose voters passed the new initiative with an overwhelming 86% in support.
Placing this on the ballot for voters to decide was, and remains, the only way to change how council salaries are set. This decision appropriately rests with the independent salary setting commission and is rightly out of politicians’ hands. Whoever becomes San Jose’s next mayor will be unable to make good on promises that voters rightfully control.
As for our hardworking senior staff, or top bureaucrats as Councilmember Mahan calls them, they are directly appointed by the City Council or city manager and are required to undergo yearly evaluations. None of them are promised a raise or even a job, as they can be removed by the will of the council or city manager.
All of these individuals are highly educated, dedicated public employees who could easily earn higher salaries in the private sector, but have committed themselves to serving our city. We should offer the thanks and appreciation they deserve and not threaten them.
Don’t be fooled this campaign season by the manicured rhetoric and misleading promises. We have seen this for many years and in my opinion a true revolution of common sense begins when we collectively choose a different path for our city.
Sergio Jimenez is a San Jose councilmember representing District 2.