Local politics question: I'm sincerely seeking all perspectives ...

@ladyluna (7004)
United States
March 8, 2008 7:32pm CST
Hello All, This question is based on a real-life situation. I am open to hearing all perspectives on this issue. The city seat of my county had an election this past Tuesday. An issue was put up to a vote regarding cutting the pay that the city council members receive. The city council members are currently are paid $ 19,854 per year. Three options were presented to the voters: 1. Keep the pay at $19,854/yr. 2. Drop the pay to $10,000/yr. 3. Drop the pay to $85.00 per council meeting. 54% of the voters voted to cut the pay to $85.00 per meeting. This troubles me deeply. The reason is because this city, as well as the county, already have a long history of corruption, nepetism, cronyism, and malfeasance. Which may, or may not be so unlike your own city and county boards, as this kind of corruption can be found in all levels of government. My concern is that so deeply cutting the pay scale of our elected representatives will draw either back-room styled crooks and thieves to these positions of influence and authority. Or, candidates who do not have a high quality character, education, or experience base. A good councilman or woman does not only attend a meeting once or twice per month. Instead, a high quality representative will be regularly interacting with their constituents. Listening to their concerns, accepting their input on issues, problems, and possible solutions. In other words, it involves a significant commitment of time. Shouldn't that kind of commitment be sufficiently rewarded? And, isn't the alternative that future city council members will only show up to the required meetings, and do little else? Or worse yet, will they be looking to make back-room deals that will line their pockets, instead of being satisfied with an honest paycheck for an honest days work? Or maybe, they'll schedule (3) 15-minute sessions per week, and get nothing accomplished? If they did schedule the (3) 15-minute meetings per week, they'd still only be earning a maximum of $13,260 per year. What do you think? Of the three options presented, how would you have voted? And, would you agree to take on that kind of time commitment and responsibility for $13,260 per year? Thanks! I really appreciate your input, and look forward to your responses.
7 people like this
8 responses
@Guardian208 (1095)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Wow, this is a toughy. You make some really good points, a lot of which would depened on the city and county involved. While I am not a big government person as you probably already know, There is a basic minimum required amount of expenses and work taht goes into running any municipality. While stores and other businesses can scale down as business warrants, many times government cannot. I think that you are right, the positions will attract one of two people. 1. Corrupt individuals looking for an opportunity to personally benefit from the position. With such low pay, fewer quality people will even seek the position, leaving broader access to others with unsavory motives. 2. People who would, as you describe, would only put in the minumum required time and nothing else. There are very few people who would take on that level of responsibility for that compensation. Is this a done deal? Was that a binding vote?
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Hello Guardian, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! And, you ask a really important question about whether it's a binding vote. Turns out, there is a little known stipulation to the city charter that requires 60% of voter backing of an amendment, for its enactment. Since 60% of the registered voters did not vote in the election, the question has been referred to the city attorney. We will have to see what the city attorney's opinion is. Which could very well be appealed. So, we don't know the outcome yet.
3 people like this
• United States
9 Mar 08
I real nail biter. Do you typically get more than 60% turnout? That seems very high to get something passed. In this case it may work to your advantage.
3 people like this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Heavens no! Like many municipal elections, we're lucky to get even a 40% voter turnout.
3 people like this
@Fishmomma (11373)
• United States
9 Mar 08
I would have voted for $85.00 a meeting. My city has made drastic cuts in all departments, so feel any money received would be great. They could have been making nothing and asked to volunteer their time. I certainly would run for office and feel I could do a good job. My local stores have been cutting hours and many places are closing their doors. This area people are spending less and many are no longer even planning a vacation due to the cost to travel. Its $4.00 a gallon for gas, so we are driving less. I think everyone should do their part in hard times. I'm hearing it could get worse and know my business is hurting now and this could be my last year running it.
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Fishmomma!
2 people like this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Oh geeze, I'm sorry Fishmomma. I forgot to add that I sincerely hope that your business will ride out these recession jitters, and inflationary increases. The Best to you and yours!
2 people like this
@arkaf61 (10881)
• Canada
9 Mar 08
I"m with you in terms of your concerns. It is true that sometimes politicians in general are being paid above what they should/what they actually do. But, although I am not sure what that salary might really mean in there, it seems rather low and I find that politics are bad enough as they are in terms of dishonesty, etc. etc, lowering their pay for so much, might bring some of the things that you pointed out. That position brings, as you say, other responsibilities than just going to a few meetings. There's a lot that should be done outside the meetings if they want to do a good job. Commitment is extremely important and I'm afraid that neither of those things can be found without proper monetary retribution nowadays. If the people in the city want quality, they wont be able to find it for free, or for very low pay. I wish I could say that it's not so, but the fact is that.. yes, it is. Lowering it like this, will open the doors to a higher percentage of both people ready to be not as honest in their positions and the ones that will not go ( nor feel any special reason to go ) the extra mile. Rather, if the citizens feel that they are not doing an appropriate job, they should/could do a better job, they should exercize their rights to get them out of the position and get someone who represents them better. This makes more sense.
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Hello Arkaf, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I believe that you have summed it up well by saying: "If the people in the city want quality, they wont be able to find it for free, or for very low pay." I also suspect that you're right that future council members will not be willing to go the extra mile. Good points!
3 people like this
@filmbuff (2909)
• United States
9 Mar 08
This is not an easy question to answer by any means. Personally I think I would voted to keep the pay where it is at. Both to stave off corruption and to compensate them for their time. Because as you stated, if they are truly involved, their political apointment will eat up a lot of their time outside of the meetings themselves. I'm saying they would have to quit their day job, but they certainly couldn't focus on their career as much as if they did not hold office. I would not be surprised at all if the $85.00 per meeting did not lead to some "backroom" deals as you stated, and or a whole heck of a lot more meetings in general...
3 people like this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Hello Filmbuff, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Yes, I agree that the $85.00 per meeting stipend could bring about all manner of questionable activities.
2 people like this
@whyaskq (7531)
• Singapore
9 Mar 08
Personally, I feel if anyone wants to get some pocket money via backdoor, he will have ways and means to get it no matter how much he is paid. What you say is right, if paid on time and material basis, the meetings could be just smoke screens and nothing gets achieved. In this context, I will consider the nature of the post and the qualities and responsibilities demanded of the candidates before deciding on the options to vote.
3 people like this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Hello Whyaskq, I think it is very reasonable of you to demand an accounting of the job duties before committing yourself to a vote. I would expect the same from all voters. How can we cast a reasonable vote about the value of a particular job or position, if we do not know the duties of that job. Great point!
2 people like this
• United States
9 Mar 08
I really believe the amount of pay involved for a part time government position has little to do with whether or not crooks will be attracted to the job. Crooks are always attracted to government, no matter how high or low the pay.
2 people like this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Hello Red, Where I cannot disagree with your cynical view of government, I also have to recognize that there are those high quality citizens who do make a sincere effort to serve the public. Sadly, I do not believe that they are a majority. Although, when the voters reduce the compensation that those quality folks are able to earn, I believe that not only does it discourage quality, civic minded people from seeking the positions. It also 'stacks' the deck with low quality candidates. Meaning that when those quality folks step up to the plate, they end up having to fight corruption at every turn. I see it as a 'lose-lose' scenario.
4 people like this
• United States
9 Mar 08
I certainly agree that the sincere honest citizens attempting to serve need all the support they can get. If a few extra bucks would make a difference, I'm for it. I happen to believe that the USA is so prosperous because it has been more honest than most other countries. True, we have always had corruption. It's just been even worse elsewhere. The current problems with the economy have a lot to do at the core with corruption and incompetance in government at all levels. This has to be blamed on the voters, you and me! As Will Rogers once said, "Every country in the world has exactly the government it deserves."
4 people like this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
9 Mar 08
Hello Red, I'd have to say that Will had a point! This is especially true when the citizens of individual nations have a constitutional right to elect their leaders; as some form of a Democracy or Democratic Republic. So, if I may directly ask, how would you have voted on this issue?
4 people like this
@Hatley (164231)
• Garden Grove, California
9 Mar 08
I think that in order to have really good city council members they should be paid well so I would vote for the keep the pay at $19.854 per year. You want people who care for their constituents and will work for them not just attend meetings. I would not work for thirteen thousand but would for nineteen thousand.
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
10 Mar 08
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this Hatley. You clearly and concisely got to the heart of the matter. I also appreciate how you've shared your own perceptions relating to the amount of the salary. Good point!
1 person likes this
@anniepa (27280)
• United States
10 Mar 08
I think I'd vote for keeping the salary as it is. In my town, which is a very small town, the council members only get about $2000 per year and I think it's for this reason there's always a lot of allegations of back-room deals and kickbacks regardless of which party is in the majority. The people here complain about the kickbacks and favoritism we all know exist yet they expect the council members to be available 24/7 if they have a concern but if it's even hinted at to increase their pay you'd swear they were going to have their water turned off permanently. I don't think paying them a flat rate per meeting would work at all, for the reasons you stated. We do need and want quality people in our local governments and while I know most municipalities can't afford to pay extremely high salaries there has to be some incentive for good people to want these positions and hopefully to stay honest and serve the people as they're elected to do. Annie
1 person likes this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
10 Mar 08
Hello Anniepa, Thanks for sharing that your council members only make about $2k per year. Wow! That means that they only earn $5.48 per day. If I may ask, how many council members serve on your council? Two years ago, the city council of which I speak, lowered its council member number from eight down to five. Which, was supported very heavily by the public. I agree that citizens are inclined to expect their council members to be available 24/7. Which would give your councillors a whopping .23 cents per hour for their time. Have any of your citizens brought up the possible link between back-room styled deals/kickbacks and the current hourly pay rate of .23 cents? Geeze, I would be really curious to hear the explanation given by your council members for the reasons why they would want to seek the council seat, in the first place. Thanks so much Annie! Your reply is a much more extreme example of the possible link between low pay, and possible corrupt intentions. I do think that you're right Annie. If good, honest folks are to be found to fill those council seats, there needs to be an incentive to keep them honest. Great points!