Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie is upset about a proposal to delay an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour for up to one year because of the impacts of covid-19. The city council will discuss the proposal at the April 21 meeting. Two weeks ago, Hayward officials voted to delay their own minimum wage increase, scheduled for July 1, by six months.
“It’s incredible the council is still being asked to consider what is a colossal fuck you to our lowest wage-earning men and women,” Oddie said.
“I literally cried [when the agenda came out last week] thinking about all of the people who are risking their lives, personal safety, and health of their families – many of them minimum wage workers – on the job keeping our city’s and nation’s economy still moving, and how were being asked to treat them.”
Next Tuesday’s item asks the council to direct city staff about whether it should begin studying a delay for increasing the minimum wage from $13.50 to $15 an hour that is set for July 1. City staff is recommending a one-year delay, but is also offering six months as an alternative.
The same agenda also includes a proposal to offer $7,500 grants to small businesses affected by the abrupt economic downturn, in addition, to a discussion on proposed charter amendments that includes increasing council pay.
I was like, WTF? In the middle of a pandemic?-Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie on the optics of delaying wage increases while asking for a council pay raise.
Oddie said the appearance of the long-discussed charter amendment on council pay on the same agenda as more pressing economic matters, is tone deaf.
“I was like, WTF? In the middle of a pandemic? Incredibly tone deaf and cringe-worthy that this discussion can’t wait until we get through the emergency. That’s the type of stuff that gets on you on CNN or 60 Minutes in one of those “what were they thinking?” segments,” he said.
The charter amendment item originally appeared on the Mar. 17 agenda, but was postponed because of the onset of the county and, later, state shelter in place orders.
Oddie also criticized the high number of agenda items on next Tuesday’s agenda, like the charter reform item, that are not related to covid-19 and the economic crisis.
A number of Alameda County cities have significantly pared down the number of items on their agenda because of the coronavirus and an overall reluctance to debate potentially controversial items without the full participation of the public in times when virtual council meetings are now the norm.
“Our residents are worried about their physical health and their financial security, not to mention all of the budget-impacting revenue deferrals on the agenda and cuts we may need to make next year,” Oddie said. But in a meeting where no one from the public can physically attend, we are thinking of directing our staff to work on this? In the middle of a pandemic? When our staff should be working on assisting our residents survive and stay safe? It’s a dereliction of duty to not defer this discussion until the public at-large can weigh in on whether these ideas are necessary reforms, personal and political vendettas, or attempts to do via the charter what couldn’t be accomplished by the ballot box.”
An ad-hoc committee has been working on possible reforms to Alameda’s City Charter since last year. Increasing council pay had been one focus of the group. While likely not politically expedient, Alameda councilmembers are woefully underpaid. Each earns just $50 a meeting, making it difficult for many to serve in public office in Alameda.