Let's Make a Deal!
07/11/2015- Editorial by Renee Wilkins
The Price is Right! Or Let’s Make a Deal. Whichever your game show, Wednesday’s Governing Body meeting descended into similar comical chaos shortly into discussion of one of the proposed changes by the Charter Review Committee, which would give all Governing Body members substantial pay raises.
Behind Curtain #1 – As proposed by the committee, the Governing Body’s pay would be based on a percentage of the average department head’s pay. Many Governing Body members were praising this as a way to remove the “politics” from pay raises; until Councilor Wilkins burst their bubble by reminding them that the Governing Body approves the City Manager and department heads’ pay, and it should be perceived as a conflict of interest; giving them indirect control over future pay increases through manipulation of department head pay.
Behind Curtain #2- Avoid the appearance of conflict of interest through an independent pay study. The City Manager affirmed that a study could be done at a cost of about $1-2k. While the committee gave their own analysis and pay comparisons, they are ultimately appointees picked by Governing Body members. The Charter Review Committee is a direct extension of the Governing Body. In fact, one committee member received texts from a Governing Body member giving direction during a meeting. Other committee members may be contemplating running for future office. While we commend them all for serving, clearly this process is not unbiased, and it is disingenuous to suggest so. An Independent study would offer an outside viewpoint and should remove any overtones of self-interest. It may even justify the amounts and/or procedures proposed.
Behind Curtain #3- Leave it the way it is. Councilor Clayton took serious issue with any significant pay raise and said it should be a privilege to serve. Others voiced concerns that not offering good pay excludes many citizens who could not otherwise afford to run for office. Both of these opinions are true, however, we are skeptical of the idea that getting more highly educated individuals through higher pay equates to more knowledgeable Governing Body members. We all know that common sense and higher education can sometimes be strangers. If they elect to continue as-is with the city ordinance-mandated annual 3% pay raise, they would have to tweak it into compliance with state law by making the raises future-effective, so that none of the current members benefit from it.
It was repeatedly declared that pay changes would not affect the current Governing Body members’ pay, taking effect in 2018. What was not mentioned was whether any of them are running for re-election…or Mayor. With the prospect of the Council’s pay doubling and the Mayor’s pay tripling right out of the gate, it would be nice to hear them all publicly pledge they are not running for Governing Body positions again.
We’ll be watching to see how lucky this item is on the ballot. There may be up to 12 proposed changes to our city’s constitution requiring voter approval next spring, and deciphering the ballot language could seem like a game of Password.