More money, more problems: Should Indian Wells City Councilmembers get paid more?

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

We all know that many municipalities are facing tough budget times. It’s a hard reality for three California cities, who, in the past month, found no end to their financial woes and filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino appear to have started an ugly trend and it’s splashed all over the news.

So, if you were given the chance to slash each of your councilmembers paychecks, would you?

An initiative in Indian Wells will give voters a choice this coming November.

Indian Wells resident Pete Schabarum gathered about 700 signatures to place his measure, a compensation initiative, on the ballot. Schabarum’s measure is looking to cut council pay to $1,000.  Which, if, you do some digging into past council’s pay in the city, is only slightly higher than five years ago.

After reading this article in My Desert, here at California Forward, we became curious.  As a nonprofit promoting more accountability and transparency, we are keeping a close eye on this issue. Government needs to be closer to the people and the only way this happens is when people get involved to ensure local governments are making decisions to better serve their communities.

The council refused to put Schabarum’s measure on the ballot so the signature drive was necessary.

It will be competing against a measure approved by the city council. Their measure keeps their pay at the current amount, $2,300 a month plus cost of living adjustments limited to three percent and health insurance, but bars future councils from receiving retirement benefits from CalPERS.

The council was already getting some heat from the citizens for their “perks” and other freebees.  In the past month, they have either cut back or gotten rid of such things as– car washes, cellphones, event tickets or lifetime free golf at a city owned course. 

It also reduced its salary to its current rate from $2,800 a month in 2010.

Schabarum, a former Los Angeles County Supervisor, told My Desert, “One is a self-serving retention of the status quo and the other is citizen- proposed.”

“For some reason in the last 10 years the City Council has become very impressed with themselves and they’ve been squandering the public’s funds. I think it’s time for that to come to a halt.”

But councilmembers believe the citizen-backed initiative would prevent some qualified candidates from running for office if they cannot afford to serve under the reduced stipend.

Who will win?  We will have to wait and see.


Cheryl Getuiza

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