Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote Monday on a proposal to give themselves a 20 percent pay hike over the next four years.

The recommendation comes from a hastily-appointed compensation committee that held only one meeting before recommending the pay boost.

Despite receiving results of a survey showing that Evanston aldermen already are paid nearly twice as much as the average pay for aldermen or trustees in the seven other communities studied, the committee report makes no reference to setting pay rates comparable to those in other communities.

Instead, the report says the part-time aldermen “give the citizens more than part-time effort. We thank them for their dedication to their elected positions and believe that the Evanston community is better off because of their work.”

The panel recommended that the pay for aldermen be raised from $10,000 to $12,000 over the next four years in $500 annual increments.

The panel also made no mention of the full health insurance benefits the city provides aldermen at an additional cost of over $10,000 per alderman per year. The compensation survey did not address health benefits, but it is known that trustees in at least two of the communities surveyed, Arlington Heights and Skokie, do not receive health coverage from their municipalities.

Because Arlington Heights and Skokie have fewer trustees than Evanston has aldermen, the total per capita cost to taxpayers for the local legislative body here is nearly three times what it is in the other two communities.

The pay panel also recommends raising the salary of the mayor from $17,000 to $19,000; of the township supervisor from $11,500 to $13,400 and the township assessor from $6,000 to $8,000. All the raises would be accomplished by $500 annual increases.

In a sign of the haste with which the panels report was prepared, its text proposes a $4,000 total increase in the $49,000 annual salary of the city clerk, but the enumerated salary figures for each year show no increase after a $1,000 boost the first year.

The clerk is the only elected position that is considered to be a full-time job.

The city this year blew the ordinance-imposed deadline for the once-every-four-years process of naming a compensation committee and had to amend its ordinance to provide for a late report.

Under state law, the council is barred from amending ordinances that set the salaries of elected officials within 180 days of the next municipal election.

As a result, the aldermen will have to either introduce and adopt the pay ordinance Monday night or schedule a special meeting no later than Oct. 9 to adopt the measure.

The members of the compensation committee were Marian Kurz, John Leineweber, Vicki Weigel Truax, Margaret Walker and Dan Wefler.

The council meeting is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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26 Comments

  1. Excellent timing
    Tax and spend. Tax and spend. Tax and spend.

    The greatest argument against this pay increase would be a 5-minute conversation with ANY Evanston taxpayer.

  2. Have they earned it?
    I’m sure the aldermen work hard. But the city’s pension obligations are still not adequately funded, and the City Council appears to be unable to cut the budget in any meaningful way.

    So who picks up the tab? Taxpayers, who are already paying more to get to work and heat our homes, and who are watching our own retirement nest eggs shrink in the collapsing financial markets.

    Most people don’t get paid for hard work. They get paid for results.

    If the City Council starts making hard decisions to effectively address Evanston’s own fiscal needs, perhaps they will have earned a raise.

    Jan Smith

  3. 5 is enough
    1. Cut the council from 9 members to 5.
    2. Give them a raise, let them keep the benefits
    3. Council perhaps really would be a part-time job if every minor issue did not become a Cause (with a capital ‘C’) with lawnsigns and websites. [ I wonder if reducethecounciltofivemembers.org is taken? ] How much time have the aldermen — the part-time aldermen — wasted discussing the tower, the Kendall lot, the Central St. theaters, etc.?

    Let’s just have an orderly way to grant permits and allow development, build a new Civic Center, and pass budgets. Let the part-time council serve as a board of directors, and leave the details to the professional staff.

    1. Why 5?
      MWK — You stated “Cut the council from 9 members to 5.” What are you basing that upon? I am curious to know why that number would make for a better deliberative process.

      You have probably been around long enough to remember when Council was 18 members – 2 per ward. In a referendum, the City voters decided to shrink it to 9. Presumably to shrink the cost of government and have a better process. I am sure that the larger Council would not have given you the IHOP you seem to want. However, what difference do you think the reduction in the size of the Council has made?

      1. Lets focus on the medical benefits
        Mr Who likes to get off topic – the issue is the medical beneifts ( compensation ) not the size of the council – let him start a blog on the council size if he wants, I do not think he has been around long enough to know the council was 18. By the way today I was talking to someone who told me years ago when his father inlaw served on the council there were no salary and benefits.

      2. reduction in size
        I chose 5 because my goal is to reduce the size of the council. I want an odd number. 3 is probably too small, so let’s go with 5.

        Better deliberative process? I don’t know. Probably no better, no worse. But if people are getting excited about the compensation of council, one way to reduce it is to just have fewer aldermen.

        The medical benefits issue is bogus. The benefits make the job desirable to people who have enough money saved up, but need to work to be eligible for benefits.

        More important, in my opinion, is to truly make council a part-time job. Council is already getting involved in too many stupid issues – many of them pushed by the various activist groups that spring up every other month.

        1. Medical benefits are not a bogus issue
          youre comment “The medical benefits issue is bogus. The benefits make the job desirable to people who have enough money saved up, but need to work to be eligible for benefits.”

          I am not clear how the money people saved up has to do with the need for beneifts.

          I would assume when youre employer hired you – he looked at the total package of compensation he was to give you – salary and benefits. The committee did not look at the total package when it did its job- that is clear – go look at the report attached to the packet.

          The council members choose the issues they wish to get involved in – it is not the public in many cases pushing issues – The problem here is many of the council members have been continued to be elected for so long many do not feel they need to answer to the public.

          Who – you really do not have an understanding of the council – suggesting 3-5 council members – given the committees – also there is a need to represent the public – thus the geograhic area.

          If you look at the report you might see most communities are paying their representatives less – and I would doubt they get medical benefits –

          If you believe in controling costs ( which I am not sure ) you should be in favor of cutting an unnecessary benefit.

          1. benefits
            Junad wrote:

            “I am not clear how the money people saved up has to do with the need for beneifts.

            I would assume when youre employer hired you – he looked at the total package of compensation he was to give you – salary and benefits. ”

            No, Junad. The way thing work is that many benefits are inexpensive when made available to groups, but prohibitely expensive when purchased by individuals.

            I currently have disability insurance from my employer. The cost to me is negligible – maybe $5 per month, I don’t even notice it. The cost to my employer is small too, since the risk is spread over a large pool of employees. If I were to try to purchase a comparable policy as an individual, it would be around $4500 per year. An underwriter assumes, reasonably, that someone who wishes to purchase a disability policy as an individual is probably a high risk.

            So it is for council members. Say the city spends $10000 per alderman to offer an insurance plan…that is not necessarily equivalent (from the alderman’s perspective) to paying the alderman $10000 more, since the alderman might have to pay $20000 or $30000 to get equivalent coverage as an individual.

            Now I don’t know what kind of plan the City has. Most likely it is the younger, healthier employees of the city who are paying premiums to subsidize the older employees or those having children. [ Just like we condo owners with no kids subsidize the homeowners who have kids in school.] But it seems like a good way for the City to make the alderman position desirable.

            I am afraid that if the benefits are removed, the only people who will be willing to serve will be people who have spouses with good insurance plans, or the infamous retired NIMBYs who have plenty of time on their hands to come to every council meeting.

          2. you went off topic again
            Who – I would guess you are paying more for your medical insurance than the council members. From your posting you are single – and I bet you pay more than $37 a month to cover yourself versus the $37 council members pay for their families.

            We are not talking about disability policies but medical insurance – disability coverage is far less. please keep to the topic.

            Also you assume no one qualified would run – you haven’t been here long – people are not running for medical coverage – most of the current council members have other means to coverage – it appears to me they are just taking advantage of the taxpayers.

            By the way – it clearly is not a well know fact about this coverage – when this is posted in the papers maybe they should tell everyone – the truth about total compensation! Thus Who we might get more qualified people to run?

    2. 5? You obviously have not been around
      Who Knows What?, it is obvious you have a very truncated history of Evanston. One of the problems is that the Council was reduced from 18 to 9 members in an ill advised attempt to reduce costs. The net result has been that more and more decision making has been relegated to staff because of the increased work load on fewer Council members.

      The results are ample demonstration that it has not worked.

      You said: “Let’s just have an orderly way to grant permits and allow development, build a new Civic Center, and pass budgets. Let the part-time council serve as a board of directors, and leave the details to the professional staff.”

      Have you thought of late night comedy? Perhaps your earnings could help dent the $145 million (and growing) pension shortfall. Or you could donate the money for a new Civic Center?

      1. Late Night Comedy?
        Vito wrote:

        “Have you thought of late night comedy? Perhaps your earnings could help dent the $145 million (and growing) pension shortfall. Or you could donate the money for a new Civic Center?”

        Comedy? I do a good Henny Youngman:

        “Take the NIMBYs, please!”

        But seriously, folks….

        Bill Smith wrote:

        “Because Arlington Heights and Skokie have fewer trustees than Evanston has aldermen, the total per capita cost to taxpayers for the local legislative body here is nearly three times what it is in the other two communities.”

        I don’t know how Skokie and Arlington Heights run their municipal governments, but it is worth noting that they have “trustees”, not “aldermen”.

        Do we want our municipal legislators to be “aldermen” – like that infamous city to the south – who get involved in rezoning every vacant lot and approving every construction permit in their little fiefdoms? Or do we want “trustees”, who function like a board of directors – leaving the day to day operations to the full-time staff.

        If we want ‘aldermen’, that sounds like a full-time job. Give them adequate pay. If we want ‘trustees’, part-time pay and part-time duties are fine.

        I wonder if anyone out there can compare the workload of an Evanston alderman vs. a Skokie trustee. Do we have more silly planning committee meetings? More pointless arguments over downzoning? That is my perception – I wonder if the data support it.

        1. full-time or part time
          Mr Who wrote

          If we want ‘aldermen’, that sounds like a full-time job. Give them adequate pay. If we want ‘trustees’, part-time pay and part-time duties are fine.

          The job is part time – so now you want it full time what pay are you suggesting?

          Face a little reality communities of similar size will have the same demands on public officials. Yes if we are talking about small villages – like Golf. The public officials would have less work. But I doubt Skokie and Evanston officials are not working much differently.

          Actually WHO – the one difference that might exist some communities have separate library boards and recreation department.

          As far as zoning and land use Skokie has those issues too.

          1. Skokie vs. Evanston
            Junad wrote:

            “But I doubt Skokie and Evanston officials are not working much differently.
            …As far as zoning and land use Skokie has those issues too.”

            Yes, they have zoning and land use issues. But I wonder, when the owners of the Old Orchard shopping center decided to add on to the northeast corner of the lot ( where they are building a new Crate & Barrel, Noodles, etc. )…did a group of concerned Skokie residents mobilize against the traffic that might be created? When developers built some condos in the decaying old downtown of Skokie, did some residents come out to decry the loss of charm and history? Did the trustees hold endless meetings about these issues?

            Do the trustees and residents of Skokie spend their time on futile attempts to squeeze tax revenue out of Rush Northshore Hospital or the Hebrew Theological Seminary? Or do they just permit private developers (outsiders!) to come in and create jobs and revenue?

            Do the trustees of Skokie spend their time listening to people try to save some decrepit old schoolhouse that is being used for municipal government?

            Why does Dempster have so many stores on the west side of the border? Why does Golf have so many more businesses than Emerson?

            Enquiring minds want to know.

          2. The Twin Cities?
            MWKW?, the virulent nimbyphobe, should move to Skokie. The taxes are way lower, the schools are better, it is the very model of a major modern metropolis!

            It also did help that they did have a lot of vacant land away from residential areas.

            As for Dempster, he should live near there.

            He neglects to mention Schaumburg. Bob Atcher, the country music singer, their first mayor, as a first act hired metropolitan planners and laid out a plan delineating residential and business zones with buffers. No souffles or extended middle fingers here and there. They have very low municipal taxes and plenty of stores. Lots of cars also.

            Mr Who Knows What? should inquire further and find a safe haven, free of NIMBYs, NPV, financial woes, no decrepit school houses — and where the sun shines all day.

          3. build it here
            Vito wrote:

            “Mr Who Knows What? should inquire further and find a safe haven, free of NIMBYs, NPV, financial woes, no decrepit school houses — and where the sun shines all day.”

            That sounds like a nice place – especially the part about being free of NIMBYs. Does such a place exist?And if so, is this place on the lakefront, with nice public transportation? And is there an IHOP? ( a nice one, like the one in Skokie or on Willow, not an old run-down one like at Howard & Asbury )

            Rather than search the earth for this NIMBY-free paradise where the Boysenberry syrup flows freely – which may or may not exist – I suggest that we build it here. We may never reach this perfect society where there are no NIMBYs and our slimmed down municipal bureaucracy works in the new Civic Center on the 97th floor of the 708 Church Tower..but it that is no reason not to try.

            We have to be willing to dream of a better world.

          4. our slimmed down municipal bureaucracy ?
            MR Who inqurying minds would like to know how you plan to ” slim down municipal bureaucracy”?

          5. Build it where?
            On the 97th (a true EMF!) floor, indeed? I assume in the effort to further reduce city costs there will be no elevators or escalators. That would surely hamper those NIMBYs from coming to city meetings, and reduce the need for city employees.

            BTW the revised downtown plan does not allow a 97 — or even 49 — story building. I suppose our Council can claim it is in the legally fictional pipeline. I also suppose that the pension debt is also fictional, something that those NIMBYs dreamed up.

            Dream on…

  4. It appears this committee did not do its job!
    It appears this committee did not do its job!

    Compensation is a total package for the committee to not look into the medical benefits shows that it did not do its home work.

    What is more interesting is the committee did not mention medical beneifts in their report. Were they not aware of the medical benefits? Why are the staff now writing ordinances with the medical benefits included. Who is instructing them to write these ordinances? Also the township assessor does not get medical benefits so how did they determine that position’s compensation?

    Were these people qualfied to serve on the committee?

    It appears these people are freinds of the the elected officials with some of the silly statements of praise they are making in the reports.

    I would suspect some of these people might question the actions of Sarah Palin as mayor of Wasilla – yet looking at how they did their civic duty, it leaves alot to be desired.

    This is a huge rip off of the taxpayers money look at all the other communities – officials are making about $6,000 to no compensation at all. Here the council members and their friends have decided to give themselves salaries of almost $27,000 a year.

    Get the feeling there is little hope here for the taxpayer, while this is small potatoes compare to the current crisis in the market – the same type of greed is present.

  5. repost of my blog – on council members ripping off the taxpayers
    I don’t need to go to Wasilla Alaska to look for misuse of the tax payer money – all I have to do is go to my local city council meeting. In this national election both sides want to talk about the issues, one issue is health care. So let’s talk about our local officials and how they take care of themselves and their families with a gold plated health care package.

    Our part time elected city council members have created a very special compensation package for themselves when it comes to health care.

    That is they pay between $11.50 a month for single cover for a HMO to $37.25 a month for family coverage. That is they can cover their families with a top of the line Blue Cross/Blue Shield family plan for $37.35 the cost of this plan to the tax payers is $1,404.32 a month. Thus the real salary of council members is $10,000 plus $16852. –thus their total compensation if they take the family coverage is almost $27,000 a year, not bad for a part-time job. (That is if you want to even call it a job?)

    Do all city employees enjoy such good and inexpensive coverage? No other part-time city employees are offered medical coverage. That is city council members are the only part-time employees with this special perk. Some of them will complain they work a full time job here, but let’s get real; many of them have other jobs in which they are highly compensated. A few even hold jobs with other government units.

    What do other city employees have to pay to cover their families per month? Our police and firefighters pay $165 and $150 a month to cover their families. Our non-union city employees to cover their families pay $185 a month. The majority of the cities employees are not highly compensate individuals such as our council members who in many cases clearly have house hold income above $100,000. a year. The majority of city employees appear to be making $40,000 to $60,000.

    Who sets the council member compensation? You guess right, they do! Every four years they appoint a hand pick committee to set the compensation for the next council. By the way they screwed up appointment of the committee and had to pass a special ordinance since they missed the date for this year.

    Most of these council members think they are here for life. So last time they did not raise their $10,000 a year salary what they did is they said they would just continued to take the medical benefits.

    I have been asking under freedom of information which council members are ripping the taxpayers off taking the medical coverage. First I asked for names then I just ask for numbers of council members taking each coverage. Staff is trying hard to protect their masters. They have refused all my requests. They have cited they can not give me the information since it is in the council member’s personnel files. I found it very interesting the city keeps personnel files on elected officials.

    Of course looking at the total cost of medical benefits of council members in the budget of $109,000. it is clear most of them are taking medical benefits. I have been told off the record only one council member is not taking the coverage.

    To me this is a huge and distasteful rip off of the taxpayer’s money; some might remember the city last year dismantled the health department. That is the cut services to many low and moderate income residents here in an attempt to save $1 million dollars.

    While I do not have data and others might, I would suspect about 1/4 of all Evanston residents do not have health care coverage. (Looking at national numbers) Thus this excessive benefit being taken by public officials is all the more distasteful.

    What is fair compensation for being a city council member here? We don’t need a hand pick committee to tell us. No council member or the mayor should get health benefits. Compensation is not set on this being a full time job. The reason it might appear to some council members they work a full time job is because they are so incompetent. Just last week at the Administrative and public works committee they spent over a hour and half discussing an apartment rental that the city owns that the tenant was behind on rent. How long did they spend discussing our $30 million capital improvement plan for next year?

    Right now they get $10,000 a year, this is enough – if they want to added 3% inflation for the last four years and the next four years fine. Give the next council $13,000 a year with no medical benefits. If some of them feel they need use the city of Evanston medical plan. I am Ok with that as long as the taxpayers do not pay for it! For example if they need family coverage let them pay their entire $13,000 salary and the additional $4,000 out of their own pockets. I am of the opinion many of these council members have other sources of medical coverage but they are taking advantage of this cheap coverage at taxpayers expense.

    There are many citizens in Evanston who are not compensate at even $30,000 a year for full time work, many lower income residents work several jobs to try to afford to live here, so why do council members have the nerve to suggest they deserve a compensation package of close to $30,000 for a part-time job they do not even do well? Any taxpayer or council member’s friend who wants to suggest the current compensation is fair, should please explain to us why it was OK for them to raise taxes and revenues last year 13.33% and not eliminate their own excessive medical benefit?

    1. answer to junad’s question
      Vito wrote (down below, where margins are too narrow):

      “On the 97th (a true EMF!) floor, indeed? I assume in the effort to further reduce city costs there will be no elevators or escalators. That would surely hamper those NIMBYs from coming to city meetings, and reduce the need for city employees.”

      That is a nice thought…build without elevators or escalators, so the NIMBYs from the 6th and 7th wards won’t come to council meetings on the 97th floor. However, the beautiful new high rise complex at 708 Church will certainly be built to modern standards and be ADA compliant – unlike the current buildings at 708 Church or the decrepit schoolhouse that currently serves as a ‘Civic Center’.

      Vito continues:
      ” I also suppose that the pension debt is also fictional, something that those NIMBYs dreamed up.”

      The tax revenue from the new 708 Church Complex would more than cover the pension debt. With the hotel on floors 32-60, the offices on floors 12-31, and the observation deck with rotating restaurant (IHOP) on the 103rd floor, the City will have plenty of revenue – even if revenues from the TIFs at the old “Civic Center” (Costco) and “Kendall College” (Culver’s, Pita Inn and another IHOP..can’t have too many of them) don’t meet projections.

      Then Junad wrote (again, down below where the margins get narrow)

      “MR Who inqurying minds would like to know how you plan to ” slim down municipal bureaucracy”?”

      Junad- Since my utopian fantasy Evanston will have no NIMBYs, there will naturally be fewer council meetings and committee meetings, fewer zoning board decisions, fewer zoning appeals, fewer planning committee meetings, and fewer regulations to be enforced. This will mean fewer secretaries to record the minutes and outcomes of meetings, fewer bureaucrats to enforce the regulations (regulations? what regulations?) , fewer bureaucrats to review permit applications ( permit? you don’t need a permit). A slimmed down municipal bureaucracy.

      1. Candide indeed
        Mr WKW? has his utopian dreams, among them:

        “The tax revenue from the new 708 Church Complex would more than cover the pension debt. With the hotel on floors 32-60, the offices on floors 12-31, and the observation deck with rotating restaurant (IHOP) on the 103rd floor, the City will have plenty of revenue – even if revenues from the TIFs at the old “Civic Center” (Costco) and “Kendall College” (Culver’s, Pita Inn and another IHOP..can’t have too many of them) don’t meet projections.”

        IHOP? Costco? Culvers? …revenue from TIFFs?

        By the time that happens, Evanston will be out of bankruptcy, NU having annexed most of the city, Mr. WKW? will be THE City Council, and being among the chronologically challenged, I will be long gone.

        You can have that Evanston…

  6. Council size
    I can’t believe that people are still spinning that lie that the council was reduced in size to reduce the expense of aldermans salaries. The move was perpetrated that way so the gullible citizenry would go for the amendment to reduce the size of the council but the real reason was that there were a group of people who felt that a smaller council would allow them to win the majority of seats so that they could reduce if not hold steady the property taxes.

    If you think I’m wrong go back and read the Reviews from the archives. That will tell the story.

  7. Don’t Follow the Money
    Well, how much an elected representative should get paid is certainly a good, worthy topic of discussion. However, I am more concerned about whether or not the representative is a). representing the views of the community, and b). doing a good job. If they are doing both well, then I’m not going to worry too much if they are getting lots of compensation. However, if they are doing a poor job (large budget deficits) and not listening to their constituents (build a skyscraper no matter what people think), then I say fire them (vote them out of office) and don’t increase their compensation. Of course, if they are doing a bad job, they are ignoring their constituents, AND they are getting too much compensation, then something needs to be done. I hope Evanstonians will show their sentiments in next year’s aldermanic and mayoral elections.

    Peter Sanchez

    1. you have to follow the money
      Peter – fiscal restraint by public officials is important – I just do not view it as fair if a part time city council member is getting gold plated medical benefits and the part time worker for the city is getting nothing. Also we clearly do not have the money to being out here.

      I have been to plenty of meetings over the years here and the council members are just not doing their jobs all that well, to hold the line on taxes. It is not about the public causing the problems it is about them.

      Your points are all valid – but the reality here of the elections is far different than – what you believe. Many of these people who are elected to the council and school boards are well know in the community, if you followed the money you might begin to see some interesting connections.

      Residents do not really vote on if the job is being well done or not – few if any go to the meetings or look at the documents. Putting the pieces together one can get a picture of some of the monkey business going on here. But soon they will be looking at their new tax bills.

      One individual here keeps on talking about Old Evanston – it is more about a group of people who want to continue to keep themselves in power, but more interestingly they keep on screwing up.

      Hope to meet you some day in the future. You should consider running for council. The majority of people in town I am certain believe in “Change” but in Evanston elections they want to keep the status quo.

      1. See you next year
        Junad,

        Well, I already have a job so I don’t think I’ll be running for council anytime soon. I’m living in Italy this year but I’m sure we’ll get to meet next year at a planning or council meeting.

        Ciao,

        Peter

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