Dellums has little to say about broken pay cut promise

May 17, 2010 5:46:29 PM PDT
To help deal with budget problems in Oakland, Mayor Ron Dellums promised to take a 10 percent pay cut last year, but he never did. When Dellums first took office in January of 2007, his salary was $115,000 a year. He asked for a raise and shortly afterward it got bumped to $183,000.

Monday we heard directly from the mayor for the first time on this issue in one of Dellums' rare public appearances of late. When we tried to ask him why he reneged on the promise to take a pay cut, he walked away.

Vega: Mr. Mayor, we'd like to get your response to why you'd offered to take the pay cut, but never took it.

Dellums: We gave you a press statement and that's it.

Vega: But we'd like to hear from you, personally.

Dellums: That was personal.

Vega: Could you tell us why?

The mayor then shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

The statement Dellums' office released did not provide much clarity. It said, "Mayor Dellums committed to take a 10 percent reduction in his salary. However, changed family circumstances following the death of a close family member made that impossible."

Whose death, or what those family circumstances are, even the mayor's close staffers don't know.

His mother died the year before Dellums made his pay cut promise. His father-in-law, who lived out of state, passed away in November.

On a $183,000 salary, the cut would have seemed symbolic to many, and it was a symbolic move most other elected officials took voluntarily in a the city now facing a $42 million deficit.

"We said we were going to take the pay cut and so we should take one, from the top to the bottom," said City Council member Ignacio De La Fuente. "It's as simple as that."

Most city workers were not given the choice to take a 10 percent pay cut. Parking enforcement officer Shirnell Smith says it adds up.

"This is a hard time for everybody and a 10 percent pay cut hurts a lot of people," she said. "I know co-workers who have lost their house over 10 percent."

Last year Dellums and his wife were hit with more than a quarter million dollars in liens for unpaid federal taxes. City Hall sources say the couple now hopes to sell his mother's house in an upscale Oakland neighborhood to help pay off the debt.

"When our leaders say that they're going to take a 10 percent cut to lead the way so we can all feel the hurt, share the pain -- I think the slogan was -- and you don't, that's disappointing to everybody," said Smith.

The mayor's office says that under Oakland city law, the mayor is not allowed to have outside employment. While Dellums does own a home in Washington, D.C., he rents his home in Oakland. As for being a high-ranking city official who did not take a pay cut last year, he is not the only one. There are a handful of others in Oakland. The difference being those officials didn't make the promise the mayor did.


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