Mayor Vetoes Pay Raise - Lakewood City Council, 11.20.06

The November 20 council meeting started with well deserved resolutions recognizing Lakewood's athletes as they pursue their personal best and team wins.

The Lakewood boy's soccer team was honored for their trip to the regional finals. A proud assistant coach Andrew Toth introduced each player and offered insight into the athlete's contribution. The Lakewood boys cross country team was then recognized. They went to the state finals. Their coach, Bill Rabel, was named 2006 Lake Erie League Coach of the Year. Mayor Thomas George pointed out that the boys cross country team is the most successful of all the Lakewood teams.

As if to demonstrate the link between personal athletic achievements and academics the mayor pointed out that head coach Rick Ventura was in South Bend, Indiana where he was participating in the ceremony awarding Rhodes Scholarships. One of his runners, state champion Michelle Sikes was one of the United States recipients.

George said, "There must be something about Arthur Avenue." Sikes grew up on that street as did another one of Lakewood's Rhodes Scholars, former Ohio Governor and Ambassador Richard F. Celeste.

Council member Ryan Demro (ward two) then offered a resolution to support a proposal in front of the state legislature which would require credit in the arts in order to fulfill high school graduation requirements. Demro indicated that it has been shown that knowledge of the arts contributes to future academic success.

Council member Kevin Butler (ward one) indicated that this resolution was being presented too quickly for proper study. He didn't doubt the value but thought that it ought to go to the committee of the whole first. Resident Frank Murtaugh then spoke and questioned "where was the opinion of our own board of education. They haven't weighed in on this yet and council should wait for their input."

Council voted four to two to send the measure to the committee of the whole with Edward Fitzgerald (at large) joining Demro in voting against.

Item three on the agenda was the formal veto letter from Mayor George. At the last meeting council had passed an ordinance raising the salary of the position of mayor to $75,000 annually. George said he disagreed with that and that he favored an incremental approach to salary increases which was proposed by Civil Service Commission member James Westfall.

A motion was made by Butler to raise the salary of mayor to $75,000, effectively challenging the veto.

Then the discussion began. Butler said "I am deeply troubled that the ordinance was returned-vetoed." He directed that comment to the mayor evidently expecting a response.

"I thought the Westfall communication adequately expressed my thoughts," said George.

Additional efforts by Butler to engage the mayor in debate resulted in a repetition of that position.

Fitzgerald then asked the mayor whether he had voted in favor of a pay raise for that position when George was on council in 1992. George said that he couldn't recall.

Demro then pointed out that he has held the position that a pay raise for mayor should be coupled with a pay raise for council. That idea had been discussed but was rejected with the resulting recommendation for just the mayoral pay raise. "I still think that this is important, that the two branches- executive and legislative- are equally important."

Butler then reemphasized that his motion was just for the mayor's raise and that at the last meeting he specifically said he was against a pay raise for council members.

A vote of at least five was needed to pass this and therefore override the veto. Council member Mary Louise Madigan (ward four) was absent. The vote was four to two with Demro and Robert Seelie (ward three) voting against. Seelie pointed out that the charter already provides for a cost of living increase if council doesn't act.

With that vote, the veto stands.

After the vote and its preceding discussion Murtaugh who made comments to council earlier and is an active civic participant commented, "this was the best debate that council has had in the last two years."

President Seelie adjourned the meeting at 9:15.
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Volume 2, Issue 24, Posted 2:02 PM, 11.25.06