Boston City Council votes to give its members a $12,000 raise just days before elections

BOSTON – The Boston City Council voted Wednesday to give its members a $12,000 raise just days before they go up for re-election — though most are running unopposed.

The measure, which passed on a 9-4 vote, boosts councillor annual salaries by 14 per cent, up to $99,500.

The proposal was submitted by Mayor Marty Walsh and gives his office a $24,000 raise, to $199,000. Walsh, a first-term Democrat, has said he won’t accept the pay bump.

The passage places Boston councillors among the best compensated of comparable cities, including Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.

Some Bostonians were incredulous Wednesday at the raise, which has been a flashpoint in city politics for more than a year.

“They make a lot of money already,” said Jose Maldonado, a resident of the city’s Mission Hill neighbourhood who works two janitorial jobs. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

There was little discussion or fanfare during Wednesday’s quick vote, but in months past council leaders have justified pushing for the raise by noting it’s the first pay bump for the 13-member panel since 2006. Other city workers have received steady pay raises over that time, they’ve argued.

Fred Goodman, a South End resident taking a coffee break in the Financial District, says that’s not justification enough.

“Everybody needs more money. It comes down to: What did they do before, and what are they going to do more now with this raise? That’s really what it’s about,” he said.

The pay raise would have become law if the council had done nothing: Under Boston’s city charter, a mayoral proposal becomes law in 60 days unless the council acts. In this case, the deadline is Nov. 3.

The raise will go into effect for councillors after the next City Council election, on Nov. 3, and for the mayor after the next mayoral election, which is in 2017.

Councillor Michael Flaherty said he requested the vote in the interest of transparency.

They debate over council pay erupted last September, when Council President Bill Linehan proposed boosting council member salaries by $25,000 to $112,500, a 29 per cent increase.

The debate became the first major sticking point between the newly elected mayor and the council. It’s also been a prominent issue in this year’s city elections, though most council members are running unopposed.

Linehan’s $25,000 raise planned was widely panned, and the council ultimately voted for a slightly lower salary of $107,500 last year.

Walsh vetoed the raise anyway, forming an advisory board to study the issue and present recommendations.

After the release of the advisory study this year, Walsh proposed a $99,500 raise in September. Linehan filed his own plan to boost salaries to $105,000.

Walsh has called his plan a fair compromise that allows city leaders to move onto more pressing challenges facing New England’s largest city.