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Opinion

Guest opinion

Dent: Prop. 410 wage increase for Tucson mayor & Council is long overdue

Laura Dent is the coalition director for Activate 48. She served as chair of the 2021 Citizens Commission for Public Service Compensation.

If you are a Tucson voter you may still be holding onto your ballot. If you are, make sure to flip it over after weighing in on your city council candidates. One of the two proposals that voters will decide this year is Proposition 410.

If passed, Prop. 410 will deliver a measured and long overdue wage increase to Tucson’s mayor and City Council. Currently, City Council members earn an annual salary of $24,000 – in hourly terms this equates to far less than the state minimum wage. Tucson’s mayor and Council have not received a raise in more than 20 years.

When public officials are paid a low wage, working people and leaders of diverse backgrounds face barriers to service. Low wages can force candidates to sacrifice a steady income or juggle multiple jobs to step into these roles – that just isn’t realistic for many of us. Low wages also fail to generate a competitive environment that could better attract qualified candidates.

If approved, Prop. 410 will increase the salary of the Tucson City Council and the mayor, each by $12,000 per year. It will also tie future wages to inflation – this metric was approved by Arizona voters in 2016 and currently guides annual increases in the state minimum wage. And these raises would go into effect in 2023 at a cost of approximately 15 cents per city resident.

As Coalition Director for Activate 48, I work with trusted movement-building organizations that include LUCHA, Mi Familia Vota, Our Vote Our Vote, and Chispa Arizona. These groups are coming together to elevate the political power of historically marginalized communities across the state. We seek to build a reflective democracy where every day Arizonans govern & lead.

To realize this vision, we must create more pathways to leadership in the political process. Proposition 410 moves us forward on that journey. A strong democracy is one where voting is easy and accessible, where elected leaders reflect their constituents, and where all people – including our public officials – have the resources and support they need to serve their community and thrive.

Is Prop. 410 a perfect proposal? Not at all – we have more work to do to create a sustainable wage structure for local leaders. Is Prop. 410 a step in the right direction? Yes – after 22o years of the status quo prevailing, this effort begins to move us towards the future we want to see.

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Is Prop. 410 provoking critical conversations? I hope so. This initiative can and should ignite more dialogue on the issue of prohibitively low pay for lawmakers. State legislators currently earn the same salary as our City Council – we see that impact who can run and how these leaders make a living while representing us. All of these factors inform the decisions being made by our lawmakers – decisions that shape our community and our future.

Regardless of your political ideals or affiliation, we should all be invested in clearing a path for a more diverse, experienced, and reflective candidate pool. This is a good governance reform and an investment in our community.

Building a strong and reflective democracy doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a road that we are on together. Raising the wage of our local elected officials is one small step towards a brighter future for our community. Please consider this when voting, and join me in supporting Proposition 410.

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