CALEXICO — After much debate, the Calexico City Council voted, 3-2, to authorize the temporary suspension of the ordinance regarding the City Council salaries and benefits Wednesday, June 2, to mitigate the ongoing financial struggles within the City of Calexico.
Councilmember Raul Ureña motioned to approve the item as presented with the exception of the stipend, the cell phone allowance, and worker’s compensation. His motion was seconded by Councilmember Gloria Romo but outvoted by the remainder of the Council.
Ureña said the total amount of what he requested to remain in the budget was a fraction of what the City saved on the item as presented and of the total operating costs of the City. He stated his motion would save $113,000 as opposed to the $157,000 of the initial proposition. The City’s general fund is $22 million, and the operating budget is about $40 million.
Ureña explained it was important to keep those benefits for several reasons — suspending the cell phone allowance would require council members to utilize their own devices for council-related activities, subjecting those devices to review for public record; and opening potential legal liabilities regarding personal device use for council-related activities.
“The cell phone allowance, I’m concerned for public records … If we don’t have a separate cell phone, that separates the text messages that we get for city information … I’m going to be making public records request and having you bring your personal phone to make sure that we extract phone by phone, what’s city business and what’s not — and you would be putting yourself in that situation if you vote to get rid of the cell phone allowance,” said Ureña.
He also raised concern about workers compensation being important for the elected officials for potential mental health issues, and the inequity that the suspension of the ordinance would bring.
“All of us live in the new developments … none of us live in the west side of Calexico. We are privileged,” said Ureña. “So, taking away that stipend is really saying, ‘you have to be rich to get here’ … it makes fair representation that much harder. It’s elitist, it’s classist — much like your other votes …”
Councilmember Camilo Garcia recognized Ureña’s point of view regarding the suspension of the cell phone allowance and motioned to approve the item as presented with the exception of the cell phone allowance — councilmembers Ureña and Romo voted in opposition, Mayor Pro-tem Javier Moreno and Mayor Rosie Arreola-Fernandez voted in favor of the motion.
“We have heard of the needs of our City, our different departments, so this is not about (being) politically motivated. This is not about any other type of reason — but the only reason is to help,” said Garcia.
Mayor Arreola-Fernandez also expressed the importance of approving the suspension of the salaries and benefits in an effort to bring more of the City’s money to the people of Calexico.
“By doing this, it shows our citizens that we care about them because it’s going to go back to them,” she said.