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One word could mean city council gets a raise instead of a salary adjustment

Cincinnati city council
Posted at 9:02 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 21:07:09-04

A proposed charter amendment aims to reduce the salary Cincinnati city council members make annually, but a language mistake could jeopardize that effort by enacting raises for members instead.

An eight-part charter amendment looking to address corruption at city hall has been proposed. Part of that aims to set city council pay at the median household income of Cincinnati, about $46,000.

"That way if Cincinnatians do better, they do better," said Tom Brinkman, who proposed Issue 3. "That only makes sense."

But the synopsis city hall put on the ballot, which people will read when voting, says the salary is based on median family income.

Median family income is a larger number than median household income, instead of $46,000 it comes out to about $63,000, which is actually a raise from the roughly $60,000 council members make now.

Comparatively, council members in Columbus, OH. make around $58,000, plus a cost of living adjustment.

In a memo issued to council on Tuesday, the city solicitor said the error was regrettable, and the mistake was "borne of good intentions."

Brinkman said despite the language on the ballot, if Issue 3 passes, the language on the petition is what matters most: The petition actually states the median household income, the lower amount, is what will actually go into effect.

"Most people will read the incorrect language on the ballot and they will vote on that, which is incorrect," said Betsy Sundermann, a member of Cincinnati city counccil.

Some want those ballots fixed as soon as possible, because early voting for this election begins next week.

"To a lot of people this one word is the big difference between voting yes or no on this charter amendment," said Sundermann. "Either reducing council salary or keeping it the same is the big issue in this charter amendment, so having that be the one word that's incorrect, not only looks really shady, but it needs to be fixed."

Sundermann has called a special committee meeting for Thursday at 12:15 p.m. to ask the law department ot re-write an ordinance with the correct language.