April 17, 2008, San Diego, California: The San Diego city council turned something into an integrity issue that in and of itself shouldn’t be. They voted to raise their own salaries by 24% to $93,485 (and the mayor’s salary by 28%). Council President Scott Peterson stated that the intention was to attract a higher caliber of candidates to run for city council. On balance, I don’t take issue with this intention. What turns this into an integrity issue is that they gave themselves this salary increase at a time when this city has had to cut services and jobs as well as impose a wage freeze on most city workers largely due to having accumulated massive debt and poor financial ratings as a result of lack of integrity. This is no different from a corporation giving its executive raises when the company is losing money due to mismanagement or integrity problems.
The other dimension that is about lack of integrity is that the city council appears to have used a strategy called "let’s see what we can get away with and then we’ll back down if we can’t get away with it." They only backed down after the mayor announced he would veto the decision and after feeling the heat of public outcry.
We live in an age in which entitlement and narcissism are profoundly damaging our culture at all levels. Government leaders are role models whether they like it or not, just like athletes are. It’s time for them to start behaving with that in mind. Integrity is about doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
The "let’s see what we can get away with" mentality earned two candidates for San Diego Superior Court Judge an Integrity Deficit Award a few days ago (see the last blog post). This same mentality has now earned the San Diego City Council an IntegrityWatch Integrity Deficit Award as well.