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Debate continues on pay raise for Boston City Council

Councilor Wu calls for review by citizen commission

The saga over whether Boston city councilors should give themselves a 29 percent pay raise continues.

Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu is pledging to push a proposal that would establish an independent citizens’ commission to review and set council salaries.

Wu and Councilor Josh Zakim tried to introduce the measure in a late filing Wednesday at the council meeting. But her effort was thwarted by Council President Bill Linehan, who cited a procedural rule.

The issue of council raises is in the news after Linehan proposed increasing councilors’ salaries by $25,000, to $112,500. The council has traditionally set its own pay. The last time councilors approved an increase was in 2006. Linehan said an increase was long overdue.


Linehan’s measure has been met mostly with support from councilors and criticism from the public, who questioned whether councilors deserve such a hefty raise. The Ethics Commission is also inquiring into whether councilors voting on their own pay increase is a violation of the state’s conflict of interest law.

The state’s conflict of interest law prohibits municipal workers from participating in or voting on matters in which they or their family members have a financial interest, including pay raises, according to the commission’s website.

Councilors can vote on the pay hike, but the raise should not take effect until after the next council election, the site said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Councilor Ayanna Pressley pressed for reform and suggested that pay hikes could also be tied to term limits. Councilor Matt O’Malley also called for tweaks in the system to ensure a transparent and credible process.

Wu and Zakim suggested the establishment of a citizen-led review panel to review any future pay raises. The panel would be tasked with periodically reviewing and setting salary levels for the council.

“As a new councilor, I want to see a discussion on how we change the system and we make it such that City Councilors aren’t setting their own pay,’’ Wu said after the meeting.


After Linehan tabled Wu’s measure, Wu said she would reintroduce the measure at another date.

“Our proposal ... was to create an independent citizens’ commission to set council salaries,’’ said Wu, who lives in the South End. “We need to evaluate ... how to proceed with this. But I think the conversation on how to restructure this decision is one that I believe that there is appetite for on the council.”