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Living Wage Responses
October 14, 2001

The following responses have been received as a result of my queries regarding opinions on the Living Wage Ordinance (See TOM BUTT-E FORUM dated October 9, 2001). Names of responders have been deleted. The one thing I am concerned about is where the City of Richmond will find the $500,000 to $1 million to fund this program. Most responders did not answer that question. With anticipation of falling municipal revenues, the money will have to come from a reduction or elimination of some existing program. I need your thoughts on this.

* I would hope we could match Berkeley's living wage. I suggest this is a Council issue.

* I support bringing the salary of Richmond workers to a level comparable to other East Bay cities, such as Oakland and Berkeley, since the cost of living is somewhat comparable in those cities to that of Richmond.

* Yes, Tom, I favor a Living Wage Ordinance. I think the $10/hr rate is a reasonable rate to start. It would be beneficial to get the program adopted asap for those in need but I understand if the majority wants to wait for a March election, it's only 6 mos away and I suppose it might take that long to get the process under way. Either way, let's do it.

* I do favor a living wage ordinance. What are the options for where the money could come from?

* City council should decide.

* Support $11.60 with health benefits. $12.92 without health benefits. Pass it now, rather than later. Where to get the $? Pay it with increase taxation on polluting Chevron.

* But don't take my comments to mean that I am against this ordinance. I am against a process that doesn't allow for adequate public comment on a very public issue. Tom -- my comments below on forwarding the study is a reference to the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council's written request for the Living Wage ordinance study as soon as it became available, so that we could take it to our neighborhood councils and consider it. To push it through without even a chance for public reaction and input - just before the election -- strikes me as being a purely political action on the part of the Council. In the minds of many, it is just one more example of how the City Council decides issues based on political pressure or expediency, rather than on what is best for the citizens. It is a comment I hear too often in my effort to get people to expend time and energy on community issues. I say all this without having come to a decision on the issue. I have been waiting for some reasoned analysis of the consequences of this ordinance before requesting public discussion and comment on it in my neighborhood and before making my own mind up. It is my expectation that, in order to act responsibly on it, the City Council would take the time to examine the study and to allow adequate time for the information to be disseminated to the public and to get feedback from them. The City makes applicants who want to change the fašade of their homes go through an extensive professional design review and public input process lasting months. I would hope that they think this is just as deserving of careful consideration. The ordinance should be placed on the March 2002 ballot.

* I feel that a Living Wage ordinance would be a benefit both to the citizens of Richmond and to the city itself. If the city pays a wage that allows people to afford adequate housing, food and insurance, it will attract employees of a higher caliber, resulting in greater efficiency and job satisfaction. If people feel they can afford to live and work in Richmond, they will want to do so. If city employees live locally they will be spending their money in Richmond as well, thus increasing revenue to the city while increasing revenue to local merchants. Everyone wins, in the long run. If Richmond is to be competitive as an East Bay city worth choosing for a home, it must be prepared to offer what other cities in the area offer to prospective city employees. As the cost of housing in Richmond is lower than in many other East Bay cities, I would tend to support a somewhat lower living wage proposal. I would tend to favor a wage starting at $9.50/hour, with benefits. As I am utterly unfamiliar with city budgeting, I have no recommendations as to from where the funds should be diverted in order to pay for this increase. I would also support this ordinance's passage by a vote of the City Council, as I feel this will, in the long run, save the citizens of Richmond money, in the form of fewer election materials and expenses publicizing the issue. This gesture would also show the city's support of its citizens and their right to earn a living, while providing a role model for businesses in the area.

* Mr. Butt: I favor the $11.42 an hour wage. I suggest that you take the money from the monies donated to Charity under the Block Grants and from the excess Management salary account. It seems that we are top heavy in upper management types who incidentally make very nice salaries. Last year in the GRIP Winter (Family) Shelter, most of the families in the shelter were working families. I think only one or two did not have jobs. They were in the shelter because they could not afford rent out of their wages. When their rents were increased, they had to move and could not afford the first and last months rent plus the security deposit. In some cases, they just plain couldn't afford rent for their families. At $11.42 an hour, there are certain mandatory deductions that must be made, such as Social Security. One does not take home the gross pay. The cost of Child Care is extremely high. The cost of food is high. The cost of utilities is high. The cost of fuel for an auto is high and the cost of public transportation is high. It would be nice to be able to have something left over to wash you clothes, your hair, etc. We are talking about young families. Not people like you and I who have either no mortgage or rent payments or very low mortgage payments because we bought our homes a long time ago. All discounts for movies, restaurants, etc., are given to Senior Citizens (even plane tickets) not to the young who really need these discounts to get by. I hope I made my point that $11.42 an hour will not make working people millionaires. Two people will still need to work and kids will still be hanging out on the corners or be latch key kids since there are no recreation programs for them to attend. Something is wrong with this picture.

* We should abide by the State of California wage standards and not set up a local island of requirements. These local drives for "Living Wage Standards" are the result of the failure of these groups (mostly labor union driven) to get support at the State level and are trying to circumvent the California legislative process? Put it on the Ballot and wait for the results. If the city of Richmond wants to pay more for its employees that's its privilege, but to pass this requirement down to competitively bid contracts or people who lease property from the city is a gross over reach.

* Thanks for your inquiry re living wage. I strongly support such an ordinance, and would suggest that $9.00 per hour is a good starting point, a little less than Berkeley's and recognizing that we are not as wealthy as other cities. It can always be raised later. i would urge that it be enacted immediately: let all the council members (i.e. candidates) stand up and be counted. I don't know enough about the budget to say where it should be taken from. But I regard it as a very high priority...and an action that would aid the City indirectly as the people we would be aiding are folks who spend most of their money within Richmond.

* I think we should have a living wage because it would ultimately help cut down on the amount we spend on social services. If we started with the lower figure and then progressed at the 2% increase figure, it certainly would help many that truly cannot exist on the current minimum wage. Without knowing the current budget structure, I cannot comment on cutbacks to fund this. Are you going to keep up this communication barrage after you are elected? It's great to be able to know what is going on and give input.

* In response to your e-mail regarding the Living Wage Ordinance, I wish to give you my position on it. I do not think wages should be mandated by government but should be established by the market forces of free enterprise. I fear the market place will dictate employment and thus labor costs. In my judgment, artificially inflated rates will result in fewer positions offered and more unemployment. I do not believe those that flaunt reports that claim that increased wages benefit everyone. Improved economic conditions do not necessarily mean that a program works. In many cases the economy improves despite the actions taken. Even with the wages that are now paid, many businesses have escaped overseas seeking the cheap labor of China, Sri Lanka, Honduras, etc. How many more people could have been employed if these jobs were kept here in the States? On a more local level, how will Richmond Businesses compete with our neighbor city businesses if our labor rates are significantly higher than theirs? If a living wage is predestined based on political pressures from labor unions, I would urge that the rate be established competitive with other local communities. We should not seek the reputation as the least business friendly city in the Bay Area. We have many dedicated citizens working hard to improve Richmond's image and standing. Don't let this effort get derailed. Thanks for your concern.

* Pay living wages from all the money Nat Bates and Police and Fire have saved over the last 5 or 6 decades.

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