PA Council reflects on compensation, board size

Published 9:34 am Monday, August 10, 2015

Port Arthur’s newest Council member, Osman Swati, representing District 6, said lately he is hearing discussion to decrease the size of Council by at least two seats.
With a mayor and eight members — all of which are paid for the time they spend doing city business — Port Arthur’s city council is larger and costlier than many cities its size.
Though he has not studied the matter enough to offer a well-versed opinion, Swati said his initial reaction is that the city could do more with less.
What he does have an opinion on is the amount of money paid to Council.
“When entrusted with a position like that I don’t’ think you should ask for compensation. It is more of an entitlement to sit in that position trying to spend the taxpayers’ money in a professional and proficient manner,” he said.
Swati, whose family owns Port Arthur business PAK Oil, said he does not need the monthly payment, and initially thought he would not accept it, but feared it would cast an unfair light on other council members who were not as financially secure.
Instead, he promised himself to do good with the money for his service and each month since his May election has contributed his payment to a family charity — an orphanage and high school built by his father in the family’s native Pakistan.
Swati said he is perplexed to understand why the city needs the at-large positions 7 and 8 when other council members are already representing constituants in all areas of the city.
“It really does not compute in my mind as to why they still exist,” he said.
The city’s mayor, Deloris “Bobbie” Prince also believes the Council could be decreased in numbers, especially since it’s make-up is difficult for voters to understand.
“I believe we have too many council members for the size of our city,” she said.
Some residents are represented by multiple Council members, she said.
While Prince is not opposed to the idea of the city taking steps to decrease the number of Council members, she is not in favor of decreasing the salaries.
Prince estimated she spend about 80 hours a week conducting city business.
“I do this seven days a week, sometimes late into the night” Prince said. “I don’t do it because there is a salary attached to it, that is not why I do it. I do it for the love of my city a it just so happens there is a salary attached to it,”
District 2 Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton is also not in favor of reducing compensation for the Council.
“Performing our duties as needed requires so much more than our position just being considered a part time job, so it is difficult to do what I believe is required to go above and beyond as a Council member.
“I do understand we are working to make sure our finances are adequate in every single areas, not just with things of how much we pay salaries of employees, or equipment for running the city efficiently,” Hamilton said.
Because of the amount of time needed to devote to the position — 30 to 35 hours per week, Hamilton said — she suggested that anyone considering a run for city council should do so with a clear understanding of what it will entail,
Hamilton said she would like to see candidates elected in Port Arthur, not by a popularity contest as it has been in the last few years, but rather by merit.
“We are board members of a city that should be ran like a corporation. It is very important that a candidate have the acumen needed to understand how to effectively run the corporation and do effective research knowing how to work well with others while understanding finance, management, understanding policy, all these things are very important. We should always remember our taxpayers are the same people who would be our employees or investors in a corporation,” Hamilton said.
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