San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter wants a pay increase equal to three times that of her council colleagues. Cutter, who is in her second term as mayor, wrote a letter to the city highlighting in great detail why the council should raise her annual salary from $30,240 to $45,360 at its meeting on Nov. 4. Over a months time, the figure pencils out to an increase of $1,260 to $3,780.
The amount Cutter is seeking is no coincidence. The San Leandro City Charter allows the mayor’s maximum allowable salary to be no greater than three times that of a councilmember. Under the current ordinance, San Leandro councilmembers earn $1,260 a month in salary, half of what Cutter currently receives.
In her letter, Cutter laid out a long list of accomplishment as mayor, along with duties she performs, including service on numerous local and state boards, in addition, to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“In my remaining years as mayor, I plan to continue working just as hard as I have been to help San Leandro be a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family,” Cutter wrote.
“I have demonstrated specific and measurable accomplishments during my years in office and have worked on special projects which align directly with the City Council’s goals and will continue to represent the city full-time.”
Cutter’s interest in boosting her own pay has been long-standing, going back, at least, to before last November’s mayoral election. But the ask by Cutter carries some political risks further complicated by the fact that only the mayor can make the request for a salary increase.
Low mayoral and council pay also highlights the growing gap between those who can afford to run for public office — often wealthy or retired candidates — and others, like many on the San Leandro City Council, who juggle their official duties while also holding full-time jobs. The sacrifice, coupled with low-pay, for elected officials is common around Alameda County, but particularly acute in some. Alameda councilmembers, for example, make just $250 a month.
In recent years, being San Leandro mayor has been viewed as a part-time job. Going back a decade, Mayor Tony Santos, then retired, mostly held full-time office hours. Cutter, who is also retired, follows a similar daily work schedule. Conversely, her predecessor, Mayor Stephen Cassidy, maintained a part-time schedule, often tailoring council committees to coincide with his early morning commute to work at his day job as an attorney. Cassidy did not accept a salary at the beginning of his tenure in 2011 due to the Great Recession.