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Aldermen take bigger pay hike

Evanston aldermen Monday treated the next City Council to an immediate 20 percent pay boost.

They rejected a proposal from the Compensation Committee to gradually phase in the increase.

As a result, the cost of the increase to taxpayers per alderman over the four year term will rise from $5,000 to $8,000.

Only Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, voted against the pay hikes.

"A lot of people would like to get a 20 percent raise in their salary right now," Moran said, "It’s not a good show to give ourselves that raise."

Several aldermen, including Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, in defending the increase argued that being an alderman is not really a part-time job, and that they remain grossly underpaid for the work they do.

"I think the $2,000 is a drop in the bucket, a minor recognition for all the work we do," said Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward.

But Moran responded that the compensation committee’s survey showed that Evanston aldermen, who now get $10,000 annually, already make roughly twice as much as aldermen in comparable communities do. "When you think about comparisons, we could say the current salary is pretty sensational," Moran added.

The aldermen also receive full family medical coverage from the city and are required to pay far less toward the health insurance cost than regular city employees do. Trustees in other nearby communities like Skokie and Arlington Heights do not receive health coverage from their towns.

Aldermen Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, who confirmed Monday that she plans to run for mayor, said she had initially planned to vote against the increase, but became convinced that if Evanston is to have a City Council "that reflects the diversity of the community, we need to be cognizant of those who cannot afford to serve without this raise."

The nine-member council currently has five attorneys and all its members are college educated and hold, or have held, professional jobs.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who also claimed to have initially planned to vote against the pay hike, said people with young children would be discouraged from seeking the job without the pay boost. She said when she started on the council and had young children, all her council pay and more went to paying for baby sitters.

She said that she’d talked to aldermen in Oak Park, which currently pays its aldermen $6,000 a year. She said they were surprised there were any young people on the council in Evanston. In Oak Park, she said, only retirees serve as aldermen.

The only resident who spoke against the pay hike was perennial City Council critic Junad Rizki.

If others might have wished to object, the city didn’t give them much time to organize. The pay hike plan wasn’t announced until the City Council agenda was released Friday, and because the city blew its own deadline for appointing the Compensation Committee, the council had to both introduce and adopt the pay raise at Monday night’s council meeting to meet a state-imposed deadline for action on the pay measure.

The aldermen also voted to raise the pay of the mayor, township supervisor and township assessor by $2,000. They voted to raise the pay of the only full-time elected official, the city clerk, by $1,000.

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