Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Give the Mayor a Raise

Here we go again. The City’s Salary Setting Commission has again recommended pay raises for the mayor and City Council. This year the commission is not just recommending a pay raise, they are recommending a HUGE PAY RAISE. The recommendation for the mayor translates to a $135,536 raise from $100,464 to a whopping $235,000. The City Council would be equally rewarded for their hard work and diligence (in theory folks) with a raise of just less than $100,000 to add to their $75,386 salary.

Now before you all start screaming what a croc of poo this is, I need to admit I actually agree with the premise of raising the salary of our elected leaders. Let us take the persons who occupy the current elected positions out of the discussion and focus on the positions. The old adage, “You get what you pay for” could not be more clear and obvious until you look at the current group of elected persons running this city.

Why would anyone with a brain, experience, and ability to make a difference, leave a good paying private sector job to run for election, for a job that pays less than a tenured police officer? Add to this the hours one would devote to the position, the wear and tear and miles on one’s personal vehicle, and the out of pocket cost for medical insurance. Why would a normal person seek this job unless it were simply for ego, power or some other narcissistic need?

We expect and demand (those of us who pay attention and care) that our mayor be an honest, experienced, educated and dedicated person who understands finance, budget, personnel, politics and has an above average ability to communicate honesty with us taxpayers. When we pay $100,464 to that person, you need look no further than the current person occupying the mayor’s office to understand the need to elevate the pay to attract a higher quality individual.

The mayor has begun to sound off reasons for refusing the recommendations of the commission. He is taking the political high road in his refusal to accept the increases. The council will no doubt follow suit and simply for political reasons. They would be crucified, if they for a millisecond, discussed accepting the recommendation. That is too bad.

The intelligent course of action would be to set a plan in motion to increase the salary for elected members in future years, so as not to affect the salary of the current elected members. The salary for the mayor should be increased incrementally as suggested beginning in 2012 when the next mayor takes office. The same would follow for city council positions, beginning with the city council positions up for election in 2012.

BEFORE any of this can occur, the mayor and council, need to correct the current structural problems with the city’s budget. To do this the mayor and council MUST increase revenue and begin to charge taxpayers the normal cost of services. Until the days of a free ride are put behind this city, nothing will change. The Chargers, Padres, Rock and Roll Marathon, Street Scene, Movie details and the many other special events that are subsidized by taxpayers, must pay the cost of the services necessary to hold their events. The Transient Occupancy Tax, which is the lowest of any major city, needs to be raised substantially and the revenue used to fund public safety and begin funding retiree medical.

The mayor and council must also begin paying their fair share of the retirement contribution necessary to fund their retirement. Their current contribution of 9.06% of the 39.59% required, must be brought in line with the premise of “Substantially Equal” and they must contribute 19.8% to receive their current benefit of 3.5% per year of elected service.

The mayor and council must also act to restore the positions eliminated from the police department as well as the wages and benefits of police officers. None of this will happen with the current mayor in the position of “strong mayor.” He does not have the ability to be honest nor is he capable of putting his inflated ego on the shelf and admitting he has been less than truthful from the beginning about DROP and the other benefits earned by police officers. He continues the politics by refusing to disclose the contents of a DROP study already conducted to determine cost neutrality and stonewalls providing information on the second study he is seeking in hopes of altering reality. I go back to the initial conversation I had with the mayor prior to him first being elected and his comment about DROP, “It’s political, I won’t get elected telling the truth about DROP.”

I’m headed to the eastern Sierra tomorrow to do some fishing. I hope to dodge a few rain drops, a little bit of snow and float down the Owens River trying to outdo last year’s catch. I’m going to do a bit of reading, some writing and relax. I have a couple of rants in my head and will find the time to put them to paper and post while I am gone. Be safe and take care of each other. Go Saints.