Five of nine city council members want voters to decide if the panel should still get pay raises in 2012 that would increase their salaries by nearly 80 percent.
Council members' salaries are set to rise next year from $15,000 to $26,650. Voters narrowly approved that increase in a 2008 referendum.
But some members say voters didn't have a clear picture of what they were supporting.
"I'm concerned that there may have been a misunderstanding by the citizens on what was really being passed," said Councilman Robert Painter, adding that the language on the 2008 ballot didn't make clear how large a pay increase members were to receive.
"I don't think it's fair to put forth a referendum that's not worded in the clearest way possible," he said.
Councilman Jim Boucher said the panel had for months been considering whether to call for another referendum, this time to repeal the pay increases. He and four others — Councilmen Kenneth Kennedy, Calixto Torres, Larry Deutsch and Painter — put forth an ordinance Monday that, if passed, would allow voters to rescind the raises.
The ordinance was referred to council's operations, management and budget and legislative affairs committees.
"We're already the highest-paid municipality," Kennedy said, referring to the city council. "I think you have to look at it as part-time employment and public service and not be given a living wage for it. It's not designed to be someone's sole earning or occupation."
But Council President rJo Winch, who opposes the ordinance, said it would limit the candidates who could run for city council.
"We're weeding out people who are unemployed or underemployed — people who have a strong passion for their community, not those who have a full-time job and treat this like an extracurricular activity," Winch said. "Only a certain population of Hartford residents would be able to run for office. This is a case where those in the 'have' are making the rules for the 'have-nots.'"
Deutsch said he favored the 2008 referendum because "it let the people decide" whether the panel should receive raises. Now, he said, he favors a second referendum for the same reason.
"It's necessary at this point," he said. "So many people are losing their jobs and benefits, there's no good reason why elected officials should see an increase."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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