Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I'd Vote No on Council Pay Raise

In 2011, I explored running for City-County Council, and, in 2015, I actually took the plunge and ran a respectable campaign to become the first Democrat elected from my area in years.

I fell short, but I ran above the baseline.  Most of all, I got a chance to push some unaddressed community issues that had been bothering me for years.  In the end, Jason Holliday won, but he didn't get a free pass to waltz back on to the Council without a fight.

As a full-time school teacher, I knew that my service on the Council should I win the election would change my life. I knew that I would have to change and rearrange things around my Council responsibilities and the ones that pay the bills.  It was going to be a challenge, but, if the voters had put their trust in me, I would have figured out how to balance things out.

Along the way, you can imagine I took a pretty deep look at the job of a City-County Councillor from many different angles.  After talking with current and former Councillors, I came to the realization that there's much more than meets the eye to the job.

For starters, Councillors, though perhaps classified as such, are not just part-time legislators.  The Council meets all year and every month, but Councillors also have committee meetings.  Beyond that, what takes up the most time for every Councillor is working on constituent issues.  There are a ton.  It may be something small like pointing someone to the right agency in the city or making sure someone's trash gets picked up.  It takes time firing off letters or e-mails or phone calls.  On top of that, most are people with real jobs and real lives.  Now, I will gladly admit there are some that are just collecting a check, and we know who those Councillors are.  No need to call them out here.

The need for a raise for the vast majority of this Council is noted.  Pay for the City-County Council is mere pittance when compared to what even nearby cities with similar governmental structures pay their legislators.  Louisville, for example, pays $35K.  It doesn't measure up.  How much that raise should be and when is the appropriate time to ask for it are questions for another person.

I don't believe raising the pay of this Council from $11,400 to $25,000 is at all exorbitant.  I don't believe it will break the bank of the city, and I believe this is a worthwhile conversation that we need to have over time.

So why would I vote no?

I take issue with this timetable.

Any raise, in my opinion, should be phased in over the term of the next Council (that is seated in 2020) and subject to the city's finances and budget.  The Council raise should not take effect until January 1, 2020.  That means that the 25 people sitting in those 25 seats after the 2019 election cycle will receive the raise.  I think it's really bad optics for a currently-seated Council to raise its own pay...no matter how well-deserved.

I would vote no on this pay raise, and I would not accept it if it passes.

If all of this seems familiar, we kind of went down this road last year.  The raise was only about $5,000, and Mayor Greg Ballard vetoed it on his way out the door.  I'm interested to see what this Council and Mayor Joe Hogsett do.  The GOP caucus is opposing the raise, but I don't know if Mike McQuillen can keep his caucus together.  Same for the Democrats, who seem in favor.

I'm going to guess that the proposal will pass with a couple of vote defections either way, and it will be up to Mayor Hogsett to decide to sign or veto it.


Anonymous said...

Just vote yes. The pay that the Council is asking for is more than reasonable given the amount and importance of their work. Low pay discourages talented people from running for office. (Full disclosure: my belief is that every local, state, and national elected official should be paid more, and that money should be their ONLY allowable source of income, to discourage corruption.)

Becky Wen said...

No matter what, always be nice to people :) that's the only thing you can really decipher from right or wrong.