A report released today compares the legislative bodies of Pittsburgh and 14 other cities in the United States...not in terms of effectiveness or policy issues ...but rather for quantifiable categories such as salaries, budgets, tenure and representation.
Thomas Ginsberg, project manager of the Philadelphia Research Initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, says this is the first time they've compared city councils.....
"We decided to do this after watching all of these cities going through budget crises the last couple of years during the recession. City Councils were deeply involved in all those decisions that cities made and we thought it merited some attention."
The report compares councils in the 10 largest cities and 5 others similar to, or in proximity of, Philadelphia. (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose and Washington, D.C.)
Of the 15 city councils, Pittsburgh's has the lowest ratio of council members to residents and is the cheapest. Each of the 9 Pittsburgh Council members represents about 35,000 constituents. The highest ratio is in Los Angeles....one city lawmaker per 255,000 residents.
Ginsberg says they compared cost in several different ways: salaries, the number of staff members, and the total budget for the legislative body divided by the number of councilors.
The 15 councils cost local taxpayers a median of $607,000 per member. The most was Los Angeles...$1.7 million per council member; the least was Pittsburgh....$226,000.
The salary for an L.A. council member is $179,000. San Antonio has the lowest salaries for their part-time councilors....$1,400. Pittsburgh Council members are paid about $58,000 a year.
Ginsberg says he was surprised by how long some politicians serve on council. In Philadelphia, the average tenure for its 17 members is 15 and a half years. Pittsburgh has the shortest tenure for cities without term limits......3 and a half years.
Ginsberg says their only purpose is to provide the public with information..."We have no agenda, no goal with this, we're not in favor of any policy change. We though it was important to show anyone in the public and media what their councils consist of and what their characteristics are."