Fremont City Council gives itself a raise; mayor-elect rejects her own pay

FREMONT CITY COUNCIL | Fremont councilmembers will now earn $2,118 a month in salary, after approving an increase last week. In addition, the City Council approved bumping up the mayor’s monthly pay to $3,764. But Mayor-elect Lily Mei said she might, instead, donate her salary to charity.

Past council had agreed to revisit the issue of pay on an annual basis based on Consumer Price Index, but had not in two years. Current councilmembers receive $1,970 a month, while the mayor earns $3,500.

The council unanimously approved the modest salary increases, but Mei, who just days before, was on the cusp of upsetting Mayor Bill Harrison in a close race, voiced unease over accepting the increase.

“I’m not comfortable voting myself a raise,” said Mei, whose campaign was focused on a pledge to rein in Fremont’s finances and wean it away from unfettered development.

Mei initially attempted to separate a vote on the mayor’s pay from the council’s increase. “I don’t feel comfortable to be in a situation where our employees and staff are taking cuts and we’re not,” said Mei in the event the city’s finances take a downturn.

She relented after City Attorney Harvey Levine noted each council members had the option later forego accepting a salary or donating its proceeds.

Otherwise, there was little push back from the rest of the council in opposition of increasing its own salary. In many small to mid-sized East Bay municipalities, the job of councilmember is viewed as a part-time job, although the time and effort often rivals a full-time occupation.

“This is a good tack to be on,” said Councilmember Suzanne Lee Chan. “We don’t do it for the money.” Chan, however, is termed out of office next month and will not receive any benefits from the increase.

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