Sam Liccardo’s proposal to reject raise heads to lawmakers

San Jose lawmakers on Wednesday will vote on a request from Mayor Sam Liccardo to dock his own raise.

The proposal, which has raised concerns with some of Liccardo’s council colleagues, is headed to a council committee which the mayor chairs. If approved by that committee, it will go to the full City Council for a vote.

Liccardo initially faced scrutiny after a city commission — whose members are appointed by another panel appointed by the mayor and City Council — set Liccardo’s annual salary at $190,000, a whopping $58,000 increase from his current pay. The Salary-Setting Commission set councilmembers’ salaries at $125,000 per year, an increase of $28,000.

Less than a day after the commission unanimously approved the raises, the mayor issued a memo saying he’d reject his new pay — despite supporting Measure U, an initiative that took salary decisions out of lawmakers’ hands. Liccardo recommended he receive a 3 percent annual raise for the duration of his term.

Now, the city’s Rules and Open Government Committee — which Liccardo chairs — will hear the proposal Wednesday. According to City Attorney Rick Doyle, the raises set by the commission are automatically rolled into City Manager Dave Sykes’ budget on May 1 unless councilors adopt an ordinance to reduce their pay.

The raises were set to go into effect July 1.

That means the committee on Wednesday must vote to forward Liccardo’s proposal to reduce his pay to the full City Council for approval. If councilors choose to collectively reduce their pay, they must adopt an ordinance separate from the mayor’s proposal.

But that doesn’t appear likely to happen.

Most of the San Jose councilmembers surveyed by San José Spotlight voiced support for the raises, citing the high cost-of-living in their districts, the difficulty finding qualified candidates to run for office and the full-time responsibilities of the job. Many San Jose councilmembers work side jobs to make ends meet.

San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez was recently evicted from his rental home and forced to pay $600 more in rent to live within his downtown district.

Liccardo’s decision to reject his new salary also raised questions about sidestepping Measure U, a voter-approved initiative that ensured lawmakers won’t vote on their own salaries. Now, it appears they’ll vote on Liccardo’s salary — at the Wednesday committee meeting and again at a future City Council.

“When voters last year authorized the Salary-Setting Commission to decide the salaries of sitting Councilmembers and the Mayor, I doubt that any of our residents had in mind the magnitude of
the increase proposed by the Commission—a $58,000 increase for the Mayor,” Liccardo wrote in his memo.

But Peralez, a lifelong renter who was stuck downsizing after his eviction, said the mayor “seems to be confused” about the process and misleading others.

“The mayor might not agree with the Salary-Setting Commission, and he may be politically afraid of accepting their fair and honest recommendation, but I am not,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “Personally, I can tell you that not all councilmembers are in the same financial situation and unlike the mayor, I don’t own my home in San José nor do I own or have I recently sold any rental properties like he has.”

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