Two members of the New Haven Board of Aldermen have submitted a resolution requesting that New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. return the entirety of the over $12,000 salary increase he was granted for the term beginning January of last year. DeStefano already agreed to give almost half of it back in his State of the City address last month.
Ward 28 Alderman Brian Jenkins and Ward 16 Alderman Raul Avila, the co-authors of the resolution, said they believe that in light of the state budget crunch and its negative effects on the city, the mayor should return his raise as a demonstration of collective sacrifice. A similar resolution, put forth for similar reasons last March by two different aldermen, was defeated resoundingly.
Avila said the request is not born of any personal gripe he has with DeStefano’s salary figure or performance but rather a product of the need for those at the top of city government to lead by example.
“People deserve an increase. People deserve proper compensation,” Avila said. “It’s about what the situation is right now, and we have a crisis on the city and state levels.”
He also said he thinks other city officials should take a pay cut as well.
Avila said the mayor opened the door for this action when he announced a self-imposed 5 percent salary decrease in his State of the City address on Feb. 3.
“He offered to give back 5 percent,” Avila said. “We think he should give it all back until times get better.”
Jenkins, who sources said may challenge DeStefano in the Democratic mayoral primary this September, could not be reached for comment last night.
But other aldermen disagreed with the pair. Opposition arguments included the mayor’s strong work ethic, the tiny percentage the raise represents against the background of the grand budgetary scheme, and the contradiction of such a request since the board approved the increase in December 2001.
“The mayor voluntarily took a pay cut,” Ward 27 Alderman Philip Voigt said. “That’s the spirit. We need to save money — so he did that without asking him to do that.”
Voigt, in a parallel move, recently drafted a letter with Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 calling for his colleagues to go without their $2,000 yearly stipend for the remainder of 2003. He said asking the mayor to forgo the increase is premature.
Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield said paying DeStefano a fair wage is required to keep him in a public sector job that demands a tremendous amount of time and organizational skills.
The mayor’s original salary hike brought his annual wage to $110,000 but his announced cut would bring him roughly halfway back to his pre-raise pay.
“I think that people who do a good job and put in an unbelievable amount of time deserve a reasonable amount of compensation,” said Goldfield, who opposed the first resolution last spring. “[DeStefano] works 14 hours a day, and what he’s being paid is not an outrageous amount for what he does, by any means.”
Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold echoed this sentiment, saying the mayor is too qualified and works too hard to take a further salary cut.
“I think we’re fortunate to be able to attract someone to city government that has the credentials he has,” Gold said. “If he were to go into the private sector, he would be paid more.”
Ward 30 Alderman Nathan Joyner, co-sponsor of the 2002 resolution, said the mayor’s management of the current crisis warrants just reward.
“He’s making tough decisions that are affecting people’s lives, and therefore, he’s earning every dollar he’s getting right now,” Joyner said. “The number-one priority is that he has to hold the city together.”
Yale music professor and Ward 9 Alderman John Halle, who was the lone Board member to vote against the original recommendation for a raise, said he thinks the mayor should suffer with everyone else but that the mayor’s State of the City gesture should be taken “in good faith”.
“It seems we’re piling on now, but I still hold to the principle,” Halle said. “If you want to have any moral authority to impose sacrifice on other people, you have to impose those sacrifices on yourself.”
The board will vote on the matter next month.