Huntsville City Council president overriding mayor's veto on pay raises

The vote to override will happen at the next council meeting.

Posted: Sep 13, 2019 4:30 PM
Updated: Sep 13, 2019 7:04 PM

Huntsville City Council President Devyn Keith says he is overriding the mayor's veto of pay raises for himself and city council members.

The vote to override will happen at the next council meeting at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26. Keith tells WAAY 31 a majority vote is needed to override the mayor's veto, which he is confident he will get. Read more about the raises here and here.

WAAY 31 asked Keith what he thought about people saying the council is only pushing for the pay raise for their own gain.

"If you think that $44,000 is something that entices you, I encourage you to run for office. I think it is a wonderful perspective that if people think that this is too much, or against it, they could be in the position to change that premise," Keith said.

He says he realizes this is a public servant position, but being on council is a full-time job. Keith said the pay raise is not for the current council's benefit, but for the future council members.

"It is for those individuals who have to say, 'I can't be a teacher and a city council president. I can't be a mechanic and be a city council representative. You have to choose.' So, if they're managing their career, and they're managing their families, at some point, we have to ask ourselves what is a reasonable wage for that type of sacrifice," Keith said.

Keith said they had enough votes to override the mayor's last veto, but they chose not to.

City Council President Devyn Keith issued this statement on Friday:

“Today our Mayor, Tommy Battle, expressed his concerns about offering a pay raise to elected public servants. He vetoed our ordinance, citing a fundamental “philosophical difference.”

My guiding philosophy is that working-class people, everyday Huntsvillians, should be able to afford to run for office if they choose to. As we all know, most people cannot afford to run for local office. Politics often excludes people in the prime of their working or educational career. Politics excludes people who have access to wealth, excluding working-class people.

Although I appreciate our Mayor’s integrity, I believe people who aren’t members of the developer class, people who aren’t lucrative business owners or wealthy, should be able to afford running for local office—whether that person is a freshly minted college grad, or a single parent. This decision isn’t about Mayor Battle or any particular City Council Member. I encourage him to take up the commitment that other elected officials have and donate the portion he feels is surplus to a local non-profit. This ordinance is about who can afford to influence the direction of the city they live in.

Mayor Battle also indicated his commitment to our municipal employees. I am not the only one who shares that commitment my fellow council members do as well. The mayor insisted on offering a one percent “Cost of Living Adjustment” for all city employees. The council fought for more. In my second year, I introduced a one-time bonus for city retirees, the people who are truly responsible for our city’s greatness. The council supported it. We introduced an ordinance that improved Huntsville Police Department pay and incentives. The council supported it. I’m currently working on legislation that improves firefighter pay. I expect the council to support it.

In my short tenure as District 1 City Council Representative, the mayor and I have been able to work together to accomplish great things for my community. The Johnson Legacy project is outstanding example. If Mayor Battle wants to share his ideas about how to further improve city employee pay, I will call an immediate work session.

The Mayor’s “philosophy” implicitly reiterates that only elites, people who’d find their salaries inconsequential, should be in charge of our city. I don’t represent one working-class person who would refuse a pay raise if offered one. I’m hopeful that one day, long after Mayor Battle and I have left office, working-class people will be able to afford to run for city offices. We need more working-class people in office, not less.”

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