Council members must uncloak stipends

August 31, 2011

A law taking effect in January targets a common practice of some California city council members of improperly fattening their paychecks with multiple-meeting stipends.

The new law requires local lawmakers to announce the amount of stipends they will receive when conducting simultaneous, or back-to-back, meetings.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure, by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, in late July, calling it a response to the city of Bell’s financial scandal which surfaced over the past two years. There, a number of high-ranking city officials in the tiny, working-class suburb of Los Angeles were taking more than $100,000 and as much as $800,000 annually in salaries and hidden payments. The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the $5.5 million Bell scandal.

During committee testimony on the bill, lawmakers were told that so-called “serial meetings” for various commissions, library boards, redevelopment panels, and public financing authorities often provide stipends which are disguised and difficult for outsiders to audit. And many times, such meetings might last only minutes.

Former Atascadero mayor Mike Brennler, a retired police officer, said he wasn’t aware of any such stipends paid for multiple city meetings while he was in office, adding, “I sat in on some of those meetings, and usually it’s just a bunch of people bloviating.”

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The Atascadero City Council is screwed.

Okay, boys and girls… now, let’s see your expense reports and perks. Got an iPhone 4?

More importantly, let’s start asking, “Is *that* needed? How does *that* save the taxpayer?”

I heard a sound bite of some useless politician saying something about saving 4,000 jobs if California doesn’t extend some fuel tax…

Well, maybe we should start asking, “Is it fuel-consumers responsibility to employ 4,000 people?” I mean, if they are fixing roads and one can show that since the inception of the fuel tax, road improvements have clearly benefited, then it is a no-brainer. But to only hear “save 4,000 jobs by extending this tax” is a complete insult to anyone who is forced to think in life. But the politician saying it probably would not know that. I wish I could remember who it was.

rOy, you sound a lot like Henry Hazlitt. That’s a good sign. Let’s compare the two of you:

“The whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

Was that a light switch I heard flicked on? RUN, roaches, RUN!