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Letter to the Editor – by Carla Perry

Letter to the Editor:

Stipends for Newport City Councilors

An interesting agenda item was introduced by Newport Councilor Ryan Parker at the July 18 City Council meeting. Parker suggested a stipend for City councilors. He said a stipend would encourage younger, working class people of color to run for office. A stipend would help cover the cost of transportation to meetings, childcare during meetings, and compensation if time off from work is needed. The councilors had just come from a Work Session where a presentation was made regarding City efforts to increase diversity in hiring, so the timing of the agenda item was excellent.

Discussion among the six council members (the Mayor was absent) indicated discomfort with a councilor introducing the concept because it could be misinterpreted as voting to pay themselves. Some also felt that the leadership training offered through the City is sufficient compensation. Parker clarified that he wouldn’t personally benefit from a stipend because his term as councilor was expiring, but he withdrew his motion and closed the discussion due to lack of support for the idea.

In my opinion, a stipend for Newport City councilors is a great idea. Everyone who serves on the Council is a volunteer, even the Mayor. Yet their commitment is for more than attending twice-monthly Council meetings. Each councilor also serves as a liaison to various City committees and work groups. There are Work Sessions, special meetings, tours of property under City discussion, and sometimes agenda packets are a hundred pages long. It is imperative councilors know what’s in those packets because they will be voting on agenda items as representatives of the people who elected them.

A stipend could help us reach the goal of increased diversity on the Council regarding age and financial status. A stipend might be enough to encourage a civic-minded, working class person to step up to serve as a voice of the people. And of course, the stipend could be waived by those who don’t need the money. Let’s encourage the City to re-consider this precedent-setting idea. I sure hope it happens.

Carla Perry
Newport, Oregon

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