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L.A. council's salaries are highest among 15 key cities, new study finds

February 2, 2011 |  7:04 pm

Compared with their legislative counterparts in key major cities nationwide, members of the Los Angeles City Council draw the highest salaries, are least likely to be first-termers and represent the largest population per council seat.

Those are among the findings of a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts that compares councils in 15 cities at a time when the recession and its aftermath have battered the finances of many local governments. The study looks at issues such as budgets, staffing, salaries, tenure and representation of African Americans and Latinos.

The study found that Los Angeles has the nation’s highest average salary -- $178,789 -- for its 15 council members. San Antonio has the lowest, at just $1,400.

Pay differences, the study noted, reflect a wide varieties of conditions, rules and histories in the various cities, and the fact that some council positions are considered part time. Los Angeles is one of two cities that bar members from supplementing their official pay, the study noted.

Los Angeles also ranked as the city with the greatest population per council seat, about 255,000. That compares with about 164,000 per seat in New York and 57,000 in Chicago. That’s because the size of city councils varies widely, the study found, with New York’s body having the most members at 51, Chicago the second most at 50 and Los Angeles coming in a distant third with 15. San Diego has the fewest members, eight.

The study found that, generally, African Americans were overrepresented on city councils studied and Latinos were underrepresented. Those trends held up in Los Angeles, where 20% of the members are African American (who constitute about 10% of the city’s population), and one-third of council members have Latino ancestry in a city that is almost 50% Latino.

Across all 15 councils, the study found, more than one-third of members were serving their first terms at the end of 2010. The percentage in Los Angeles was 13%, the lowest among the 15 cities. Eight of the 15 cities, including Los Angeles, impose term limits on service, ranging from six to 12 years.

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall.

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