The Laguna Beach City Council members last week did not take a vote on increasing wages for themselves and three other city panels after some of the council members slammed the proposal as ill timed.

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“I just think this is so poorly timed,” said Councilman Peter Blake during a discussion of the topic. “We are asking key staff and key employees to take reductions in what they get paid that are working full time. We are pretty much volunteers and I think it’s humiliating to offer me 5%. If you really want to offer me compensation, anything under $200,000 for this nightmare job is unacceptable.”

Pay hikes for members of the council, planning commission, design review board, and arts commission were on the City Council’s Oct. 13 meeting agenda. The panelists get paid each month for their services. With eight members on the arts commission and five members on each of the other panels, four options were under consideration for the new pay ranges.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman placed the compensation item on the agenda. She said she brings the topic up every two years for consideration by her colleagues.

“We (members of all the panels) do not get looked upon as any other city employee who usually gets cost of living and so on,” she said. “A 5% increase is not exactly noticeable in our budget but it’s a gesture of appreciation and recognition.”

Councilwoman Sue Kempf opposed the pay hikes.

“I don’t support any changes to the compensation right now. I just don’t think it’s a good time to do this,” she said. “With a lot of people out of work and businesses are doing GoFundMe to keep themselves going, I just don’t think I am going to support it.”

Mayor Bob Whalen added: “Whether we’re paid at $908 or $999, that’s not really compensation for anywhere near the time we put in. It’s frankly not worth the grief that will arise for increasing City Council members’ pay and I do think that we need to set an example at the top.”

The discussion ended with Whalen deciding to defer on the proposal with which no vote was taken on the motion. 

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