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Durham council members seek pay hike, some voters not happy

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DURHAM (AP) — A group of civic leaders and community activists sharply criticized an effort by City Council members here to increase their salaries by $4,000.

``It didn't take them much time to figure out they need to pay themselves more money,'' Harry Monds, president of the Durham chapter of the NAACP, said Thursday.

Monds said the City Council's track record does not warrant the 37 percent pay increase the council's Finance Committee has recommended. The proposal would increase the council's salary from $11,100 to $15,100 and the mayor's salary from $14,000 to $19,218.

Mayor Nick Tennyson, who opposes the proposal, said he would donate his increase to charity.

A survey of North Carolina's 10 largest cities shows that if the proposal is adopted, Durham would have the second-highest-paid City Council behind Charlotte, along with the highest tax rate and the second-highest crime rate.

``How come other cities succeed with less and Durham fails with more?'' asked John Best, a member of the City-County Planning and Zoning Commission. ``Because they're down there spending time on cultural audits, fat-cat pension plans for people who screw up the Police Department and cemetery studies. That's where their time is going.''

Not all City Hall watchers disagreed with the policy. Diane Catotti, the president of the People's Alliance political action committee, said council members are underpaid.

``We all know these people work incredible hours,'' Catotti said. ``I was surprised by the amount they proposed, but I do support them.''

(Copyright 1998 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)