Proposed $75K raise for Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao opposed by NAACP

The Oakland chapter of the NAACP is calling on its supporters to rally against a $75,000 raise for Mayor Sheng Thao

The civil rights group said the proposal to boost Thao's pay to $278,000 is "unwarranted" while the city is cutting services to close a gaping budget deficit this year. 

Chapter President Cynthia Adams urged members of the Oakland NAACP and the community to gather on the steps of City Hall at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to denounce the proposal.

The Oakland NAACP has clashed previously with Thao when they decried the mayor for firing Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong in February as one of her first acts in office. 

The 37% pay increase for Thao was recommended by the city's human resources department If enacted, the pay increase would also be applicable to future mayors, according to Oaklandside.

The proposal comes as the city faces a historic budget deficit of $360 million.

City staff proposed the salary increase after determining that the mayor's current salary is outside a specific range and lower than the average pay for chief executive officers in other California cities with comparable populations.

San Francisco Mayor Breed earns $357,000, making her the highest-paid mayor in the state, while Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass receives $301,000. Thao is the fourth highest-paid mayor of a California city. 

However, she earns less than some non-elected officials in Oakland. A special assistant to the mayor earns $22,000 more than her, and City Administrator Jestin Johnson, who was hired in May, makes $340,000, as reported by Oaklandside.

According to the city charter, the mayor's salary is not supposed to be less than 70% or more than 90% of the average salaries of city managers/chief executive officers.

The increase was endorsed by Oakland's Finance and Management Committee last week in a 3-1 vote. The motion will be presented to the entire City Council on Tuesday.

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas expressed support for the staff's recommendation and voted in favor of it, stating, "Just in terms of making sure all of our salaries across the board keep up with the very expensive cost of living."

However, some residents criticized the pay increase. Resident Gene Hazard questioned the timing, saying, "She hasn’t been six months in the office, and you’re already talking about an increase. Where’s the performance audit?"

Although most committee members supported the raise, Councilmember Janani Ramachandran expressed concern, considering a $75,000 pay increase too drastic and unwise. She emphasized the importance of making decisions in the best interest of constituents and providing basic services. 

Ramachandran said, "Let’s be making decisions that serve the best interest of our constituents. Let’s provide basic services. Let’s make sure that city staff and all Oaklanders are compensated adequately and can earn a living wage, and that’s what my decision is based on.

Ramachandran acknowledged that she is not against a small pay bump for the mayor, but believes city funding should prioritize other areas.

"In difficult financial times, we need to be prudent on where we’re spending our money," she said. "That means making sure we’re supporting the city staff in Oakland to be able to do their jobs and deliver services from fixing potholes, to roads, to crime prevention. And the reality is in the city of Oakland we have a substantial portion of our staff members making less than the minimum wage."

Councilmember Bas pointed out that the last time an Oakland mayor received a pay increase was in 2013.