Chester City Council's Republican members said Wednesday that they wanted to reduce the pay of the council and the mayor to help the financially strapped city.
Their Democratic counterparts see sour grapes instead. If last month's primary election results are an indicator, any pay cuts will be absorbed by incoming Democrats, who seem poised to take over the mayor's office and a majority on the council.
"This should have been done eight years ago, not when they can see the political handwriting on the wall," said State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D., Delaware).
The Republican-controlled council has proposed an ordinance to decrease the mayor's $46,000 salary 10 percent and members' $40,000 pay 12.5 percent. The cuts would affect only newly elected officials. In this instance, that would include the mayor and the two council members to be elected in November.
The first reading of the proposed ordinance was Wednesday. The second will be at the council meeting June 22.
Republican Councilman Shepard Garner, who sponsored the ordinance, said the cuts were only fair since the city was planning to ask its unions to make financial concessions.
"If we are asking the unions, we have to show some strong leadership and set the tone," said Garner, who is director of accounts and finance for the city.
Garner, who is up for reelection, said the cuts were not political. "I plan on being here in January," in which case he would take a pay cut, he said.
Stacey Landrum, president of the firefighters union, called the proposal "a political stunt because they know they are on the way out."
He said the city did not "ask us earlier this year to offer concessions."
Mayor Wendell Butler, a Republican who was unopposed in the primary, did not return calls for comment. Butler will face Democrat John A. Linder, a councilman, in the fall.
Two council seats are up for grabs. The top vote-getters in the primary were Democrats, Nafis Nichols and Elizabeth Williams. Should they prevail in the fall, the Democrats would hold a majority on the council.
"To me, the Republicans have given up," said David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party. "They know they have lost the elections, so let's destroy the city to make sure the Democrats fail when they take over."
Kirkland said the ultimate goal was to alter the structure of Chester's government and take power away from the council and mayor, who act as elected officials and department heads.
"This is all in the name of poor politics," he said.