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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano
Adler seeks public’s help in lobbying for more staff
Mayor Steve Adler is trying to boost the chances that his 10 City Council colleagues will vote for a resolution directing the city manager to identify funding options for five new members of the mayor’s staff — at a projected annual cost of $490,645.
Even if Council approves the resolution today, it does not guarantee that his colleagues will vote to spend the money when the answers come back.
Last night, employing a tactic heretofore unseen by the Monitor, Adler sent out an email asking his supporters for help in approving a larger staff for his office. Adler took the unorthodox step of requesting that his supporters email other Council members to promote his plan.
The message reads in part, “I’m writing to ask you to email our City Council to ask them to vote YES tomorrow on Item 40, which will add additional staffing and resources for the Mayor and Council offices. Click here to email them now … I need your help to remind our City Council that you chose change! On the campaign trail, I talked about inertia being one of the biggest threats to enacting change. The forces of the status quo would prefer to keep things as they are, with us continuing to fall behind on our biggest challenges. We can’t let that happen.”
The Monitor received a number of irate emails and phone calls concerning the message. Adler’s email notes that it is a paid political message from the Adler campaign. But along with that disclaimer, the message also links to a government website for the purpose of lobbying his colleagues.
Though it remains unclear exactly how much the additional staff will cost, in the Council agenda backup staff has estimated that the annual cost of the five new positions in the mayor’s office will be $490,000. When added to the $250,000 for all 10 Council members’ offices that is also part of Adler’s plan, $4,250 to $7,500 for office furnishings, and $1,500 for computer equipment for each employee, the total cost of the change tops $750,000.
The projected salaries of additional mayoral staff was based on the current mayor’s office staff, as the proposed salaries have not yet been provided to staff.
The Office of the City Manager has also yet to determine which vacant positions would be used toward the mayor’s staff.
A question from Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo’s office pointed out that, over the last two budget cycles, Council has asked to eliminate all nonessential vacancies.
The agenda backup also clarified that the City Charter would have to be amended if Council would like to create a department of employees that answers to the entire Council, instead of only the city manager or individual Council members.
Image modified from U.S. National Archives and Records Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
city charter: The city’s written grant to govern
Mayor Steve Adler: Mayor of the city of Austin, elected in November 2014