Councillor Donna Skelly has raised the issue of councillors receiving free meals, which currently costs about $30,000 per year. My first thought on reading this story is how the hell can you feed 16 people plus possibly some staff for $30,000 a year. If only councillors eat the lunch it works out to less than $2000 per councillor or about $36 a week, even less if staff some media or others are partaking, as was suggested by Andrew Dreschel in a column today. Given the small sums involved, clearly it is reasonable for councillors and others to pay because clearly the city food regimen is a better bargain than anything obtainable at commercial eateries.
It is being suggested that collecting the food money would pose some sort of logistical problem. Not really, those taking the lunch could simply purchase an annual card that could be shown if needed. This whole issue of council perks arose last month when Skelly went after Mayor Fred Eisenberger when it was revealed he would receive 30-odd thousand a year as board director for the successor to Hamilton Utilities suggesting he should donate the windfall to the hydro bill relief fund. Eisenberger shot back that all members should consider donating part of their salaries to charitable causes, although with the hydro emolument he earns more than double the salary of a councillor.
Bottom line $2,000 a year for meals and uninterrupted meetings is a bargain. Pay up.