Candidate opinions diverge on issue of council reimbursement

Friday, February 2, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This April, the mayor is up for re-election and two seats on the City Council will be wide open. Bob Hutton and Jim Loveless, of the Third and Fourth wards, respectively, have said they will not be running for re-election.

“I’m worn out from it,” Hutton said. “It’s rewarding, and some parts of it are fun. But, on the other hand, you can’t do it forever.”

Loveless said that though he will be leaving the council for now, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of running again down the line.

“It has been the most intense volunteer experience I’ve ever done,” Loveless said. “I just need a break.”

As Hutton and Loveless step down, four candidates are vying for the chance to take their seats. But those potential successors don’t necessarily plan to follow in the footsteps of Loveless and Hutton on the issue of paying council members.

Loveless said he doesn’t think council members should be paid, but the candidates for Fourth Ward councilman disagree.

“I do think there need to be some adjustments made for the time that is necessary to be a city councilperson,” Fourth Ward candidate Mike Holden said. “There needs to be some payment.”

Holden also said having a staff liaison dedicated solely to the council would alleviate some of the time pressures.

Holden’s opponent, Jerry Wade, said he also would like to see some pay for council members, if only to make it feasible for more people to run.

“We need to make it possible for people who care to run for City Council,” Wade said. “But it has to be a reasonable reimbursement.”

Mayoral candidate John Clark said he is in favor of a variety of forms of assistance for the council, including compensation.

“We are in a market economy, and we value a market economy,” Clark said. “And to not have any sort of financial support for the council, it is a reflection of the value we place on council service.”

Hutton said the city might benefit from a modest payment for council members, but the two Third Ward candidates don’t feel the same way.

Karl Skala said he doesn’t like the idea of changing the city charter to allow council salaries. “That would be like having a constitutional convention,” he said.

Skala’s opponent, Gary Kespohl, said he prefers a purely volunteer council.

“I’m really not in favor of them paying City Council members,” Kespohl said. “I may change my mind over the course of the next three years, but right now, I’m opposed to it.”

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