Baltimore's City Council yesterday allowed a series of pay raises for city officials to stay alive -- a step that likely will permit the bill to be passed without anyone having to directly vote for it.
At a public hearing yesterday that drew only one member of the public -- a man named Larry Ridgely, who is opposed to the pay increases -- the City Council voted 8-3, with one abstention, to not reject the proposed increases in salary, a de facto approval.
The salary increases, recommended by a compensation commission that was intended to take the politics out of the process, would bump the mayor's salary from $125,000 to $148,000 and a City Council member's salary from $48,000 to $57,000. The pay increases would not take effect until next year.
"It's a fair raise," said City Councilman James B. Kraft, who voted against killing the raises. "We are professionals."
In November, city voters approved an amendment to the charter that created a compensation commission charged with making salary recommendations for elected officials. By charter, the council is required to automatically introduce the commission's recommendations.
The council may then vote to approve the proposed pay increases, reject them or take no action. If no action is taken, the salary increases go into effect.
In a move that some saw as political, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who is running for mayor in this year's election, called on the council leadership to hold a hearing rather than allow the measure to be passed without a vote. After a series of other votes, Mitchell moved to reject the salary increases -- a motion that was ultimately rejected.
"It's about fiscal responsibility," Mitchell said, who added that his main opposition is to 2.5 percent annual salary increases that were part of the recommendation. "Inaction is not leadership."
The proposed increases will be on the agenda for Monday's City Council meeting. If the council takes no action at that meeting, the raises will go into effect.
"I don't understand it," said Ridgely, who lives in North Baltimore "I wouldn't be opposed to the mayor and the City Council getting a raise if I thought they were doing a better job."
How they voted
The Baltimore City Council voted yesterday to not reject salary increases for elected officials. If the council does not take any other action at its meeting Monday, the raises will go into effect for those who win this year's election. Council members voting "yes" were voting to reject pay raises for the mayor and City Council members, while those voting "no" were voting to support the pay increases.
Voting "yes": Kenneth N. Harris Sr., Mary Pat Clarke and Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.
Abstaining: Sharon Green Middleton.