Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Council greed

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If city councillors think a 50 per cent increase in their ward communication allowance is justified, they should wait until the next election and let voters decide.

The preliminary operating budget proposes giving each councillor an extra $40,000, for a total of $114,000, to run their offices and communicate with constituents. The plan was hatched by council's governance committee without public discussion or even a document that compares the allowances of councillors in other cities.

The allowance is used to hire a person to answer the phone and respond to complaints and problems, as well as pay for phones, office equipment, supplies, travel, mail-outs and grants. Some councillors in the past answered their own calls, or hired a part-time person.

The city needs to revamp the way it supports councillors, possibly by paying outright for office supplies and staff, reimbursing councillors for other legitimate expenses, and limiting them to so many mail-outs a year. It's also questionable whether councillors should have discretionary funds to be spent in their wards, which gives them an advantage during elections.

Councillors should not have the power to raise their salaries or allowances and they should reject the increase, at least until a proper independent report is prepared on how to improve the system.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2013 A14

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