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Answers forthcoming Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Feb 05 2011 12:00 PM

On display at this week's Chula Vista City Council meeting was a splendid display of democracy in action. Specifically, an issue raised by Councilman Rudy Ramirez illustrates just how messy and, at times, convoluted democracy can be.

For some time Ramirez and Councilman Steve Castaneda have wanted to publicly examine salaries and pension reform for the city's top executives.

On Tuesday, Ramirez proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee of citizens - Bill Hall, Richard Schmidt, Elroy Cazares and Eloy Villa - to determine if executive compensation is at an appropriate level "for our city."

The messy part of the discussion came when just about everybody on the council offered their opinions about what the group should study and who should sit on the committee.

In the end five people are supposed to report back to the council what they found, though Ramirez said he didn't want to constrain the group by having them forced to meet a specific deadline.

And while Castaneda said he didn't want to see the deliberations drawn out, he also mentioned, "I don't want to get into that old sort of thing that we do about looking at other cities and finding ... where everybody else is paying."

I'd like to think that using the compensation figures from other government agencies might offer a broader reference point. After all, does the city of Bell mean anything to anyone?

Also, using other government agencies might put into perspective the answers to one of this city's more perplexing questions:

How is it this city, with an estimated population of 237,595 people, can pay its first elected city attorney, Glenn Googins, more than San Diego's city attorney, who serves a population of about 1.3 million?

Chula Vista reportedly pays Googins $203,688 and San Diego pays Jan Goldsmith $198,086.

At the state level, California's Attorney General Kamala Harris makes in the neighborhood of $175, 525 representing roughly 36 million constituents.

It's also interesting to note that United States Attorney General Eric Holder makes a comparable pittance, raking in about $186,000 in his role as lawyer for 300 million-plus people.

About the only high profile public servant attorney Googins isn't out-earning is District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, whose annual paycheck is $226,647.

Nice gig and check for Googins. But again, how does this city afford that salary? Looking forward to what the committee will tell us.

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