What's your city council worth?

Categories: Minneapolis

A price comparison with San Antonio

Say what you will about the Minneapolis City Council, but the 13 ward leaders, through an endless series of subcommittees, meet about as often as the sun rises. It's a full-time job all right, and for that they are fairly well-compensated. Yearly salary is in the neighborhood of $70,000.

If that seems low, our fearless city leaders might want to check out their brothers and sisters in San Antonio. For starters, the 10 city council members there have a full council meeting weekly, as opposed to bi-weekly in Minneapolis, a confab that has been known to stretch as long as 10 hours.

And for that, they receive "twenty bucks a week," according to Roger Flores, who represents San Antonio's First District. "And you have to attend the meeting to get paid."

That's an annual salary hovering around $1,000, or roughly $300 less than a Minneapolis City Council member makes in a week.

"It keeps some people out of the loop," Flores, a second-generation restaurant owner, notes. "You can really only run [to be on the council] if you're retired or independently wealthy."

In fact, San Antonio--which is where MPD Chief Bill McManus is a candidate to be that city's top cop--is a case-study in lean government. The city, with its 1.4 million people, has an annual budget of $1.9 billion, according to Flores. Minneapolis, population roughly 390,000, runs on about $1.2 billion a year.

As if the lousy pay weren't deterrent enough, San Antonio further prohibits career politicians with term limits: A council member can only stay around for two two-year stints.

Recently, Flores says, the city held a "charter election" to try to raise the pay and ease up on the term limits, but the voters wouldn't have it. "Everything got voted down," Flores says. "But they voted 'yes' for us to set up an ethics board."

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