08/05/2011 - With city budgets being cut throughout the nation, the money that city councils spend on themselves has come under increased scrutiny.
That spending is one of a number of measurable characteristics of city councils that Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative examined in a recent report. It focused on the nation’s 10 most populous cities and five others chosen because of their similarity or proximity to Philadelphia: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose and Washington, DC.
The report, City Councils in Philadelphia and Other Major Cities: Who Holds Office, How Long They Serve, and How Much It All Costs, reveals that the Los Angeles City Council spends the most per council seat, about $1.7 million, and Pittsburgh the least, about $226,000. The 15 councils cost local taxpayers a median of about $607,000 per seat this past year, the biggest part of which was salaries and benefits for staff and members. On a per-resident basis, Washington, DC, which functions as a city, county and state, spent the most on its council, $32.41. Phoenix spent the least, $2.10.
The report also compares councils in terms of staffing, salaries, electoral conditions, tenure and representation. The study, which is available on Pew’s Web site, is accompanied by an interactive graphic that allows users to click on the categories on which they can compare the 15 cities.
The Philadelphia Research Initiative produces in-depth, data-driven reports on issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of decision makers, the news media and the public at large. When possible, the reports look at conditions and policy approaches in comparable cities, yet do not promote any policy agenda.
The initiative has launched a monthly e-newsletter spotlighting recent research and trends related to Philadelphia. Readers can sign up to receive it, read the full city councils report and see the interactive graphic at www.pewtrusts.org/philaresearch.