Kevin Hoover: Funnel More Public Money To The Powerful – April 7, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Feb. 15, the City Council voted to give itself a five percent salary increase retroactive to two years ago, when members got their last pay hike.

The councilmembers now haul in $484.67 per month, each. The pay boost adds $2,643.60 to the annual cost of pampering these Little Lord Fauntleroys who rule over our lives.

It’s a damn good investment – too bad the law caps it there. Maybe we should change the law so we can double or triple the City Council’s pay. Yes, really.

The winds of political fashion currently hold that less government is better; that no one steering the ship will set us on a fine journey, with expertise eschewed. If you have studied anything, know what you’re doing and take a dollar in return for your educated services, you’re some featherbedding ivory tower elitist.

No sale. I’m going to defy this particular “wind” and suggest that there are instances in which you get what you pay for.

Even with the increase, we’re paying the councilmembers a measly $120 and change per week. If you were hiring someone to manage your business, what caliber of applicant do you suppose you would attract with that kind of salary offering?

The job of a councilmember is as big as she or he wants to make it. That they study all those staff reports, attend their liaison meetings and still make the ribbon cuttings while holding down full-time jobs elsewhere is admirable. Except when it isn’t – there have been councilmembers who invest little time in the job other than at required meetings.

I’ve noticed over the years that as much as we trumpet “diversity” as a positive value, it discomfits us to some degree when we really have it, because those marginal views are just so damn annoying. But painful as it can be, it is a healthy situation for a leadership body in terms of “hybrid vigor.”

Our present council is about as motley as any we’ve ever had. Members occupy wide-ranging spots on the age, socioeconomic and professional scale. We have councilmembers who scratch a living out of dirt, sling ice cream cones, do energy research, planning and more. Their votes are unpredictable and well-informed by all this diversity. You hear all sides.

If we don’t cough up a semblance of decent compensation, how are working-class people ever going to be able to make time to lead and serve us without starving? Do you really want only people of independent means to lead Arcata?

Even with the recent raise, councilmember compensation is barely adequate to ensure that the council looks like Arcata – with people of varying backgrounds and financial means bringing their experiences to the table.

Let’s pay our councilmembers a decent salary so that they will have the time and strength to work hard for the people of Arcata.