Pay for the service or take what you get

A belated “thank you” goes out to Mayor Keith Holliday in the wake of his announcement that he will not seek re-election.  My thanks extend not only to his many years of service but also for reopening the conversation about renumeration for Council members.  The mayor said it would “it would really be hard to walk away” from the position if the money were more in line with the effort required.

May I add that the decision to walk into a run for such a low paying, time-intensitive position is hard as well.

It seems that the only people who can breach the council compensation subject are sitting members of council who have announced they will not be running again.  Two years ago it was Robbie Perkins who championed a modest stipend increase on his way out the council chamber’s door.  It is time we open the conversation up further.

We complain loudly when it appears our elected officials are not providing a sufficient level of oversight for local government.  However, adequate citizen-elected oversight of the city’s bureaucracy requires time… lots of time.  In addition, proper oversight requires people with experience in looking out for bottom lines.  From my experience, most of the people who are really good at looking out for bottom lines are doing it for the health and survival of their own businesses.  Most scoff at the suggestion that they allow their businesses to suffer their absence to serve on our City Council.

So we are left with a quandry.

Do we keep hoping to get decent representation from a limited pool of candidates who either don’t have anything better to do or who are willing to sacrifice their own financial security for the public good.  Or, do we realize that to attract better candidates we need to at least insure that they won’t go broke if they get elected?

You can’t have it both ways.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted April 16, 2007 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Good post David. I agree. Volunteer work is very rewarding emotionally. I should know because I have been an active volunteer for most of my life.
    City Council jobs in a town the size of Greensboro should not be volunteer positions. Adequate pay for mayor and city council members should be a priority. The cost to the taxpayers would be minimal compared to the benefits.

  2. Posted April 16, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I feel that the City Council positions come with a very intense caseload and therefore require a time expenditure
    that forces members to choose what area of their life will go lacking for this cause . In my own case it would undoubtedly be my work, as my family comes first in all choices. Therein lies the rub as it has been stated before.

    I have decided to run knowing this fact and it has not deterred me as of yet . I have to agree that as the job of
    Council member becomes more demanding it will limit the pool of candidates to those who can afford to work for an unequitable exchange based on an accounting of time spent versus compensation earned.
    As it stands now I am told the payment is almost half that of the County Commissioners and School Board and that does not strike me as equitable.

    The people of Greensboro need to know the facts concerning this matter as well as how much money it takes to just run for office. I wrote “can you afford to run for that office? ” on my blog . I guess an equally appropriate question
    would be can you afford to hold that office ? Thanks for raising the issue David

    I applaud the work done here and at other sites to attempt to make this kind of information possible.

  3. Brenda Bowers
    Posted April 16, 2007 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Amen! The city council members should most certainly be paid much more than they are getting. I imagine you David with your young family and their needs are one who would run (and who I sincerely hope would win a seat on any council you choose) but simply can not afford to. With a more reasonable pay perhaps you could hire another employee for your business to keep it growing while you devote some of your time to the people.

    I was one of those upset over the County commissioners pay raise not because it isn’t needed to get decent people on the job, but mainly because it was such a huge pay raise and for the mismanagement, cronyism and self enrichment that is the habit of some of the current officials.

  4. JBM
    Posted April 16, 2007 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see a Council person’s daily schedule. How much of the “effort put into the job” are actual duties and how much are nothing more than campaigning. Ribbon cutting, riding in parades, speaking at Kiwanis meeting, etc are not part of the job description. Sitting on council should not “make you go broke”, but trying to get elected can.

    I am not saying a council member’s work is not time consuming, but I bet more time and money are spent on getting elected than actually serving. There are more than a few elected officials who maintain full time jobs while being dedicated public servants.

    That said, I am not against raising Council’s pay some, but never to the point where people run for the money

  5. Tom Phillips
    Posted April 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    This is not about Councilmembers pay. It’s about the Mayor. I believe having a full-time mayor at a full-time salary would increase the number of candidates but reduce the quality. Successful people might find a way to serve while continuing their career but few could leave it completely and restart their careers after serving. When I ran for mayor in ’95, I carefully considered how I would do the job given the time requirements of my profession. It’s about time management and using your councilmembers effectively. It can be done. We don’t need to change the system.

  6. Paul Elledge
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    A city council position shouldn’t be a time-intensive position. The fact that it is means that the city council is involved in a great many things they shouldn’t be. The extent of their job should be maintaining a police force, city courts, and elections, nothing more.

    And they should do it for free. They’re supposed to be public servants, not employees. If I were on the city council, one of my first proposals would be to eliminate the members’ salaries. And I’m not a rich man by any stretch of the imagination. The “limited pool of candidates who either don’t have anything better to do or who are willing to sacrifice their own financial security for the public good” is a false dichotomy.

  7. dhoggard
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Tom, I should have added my thanks to you as well. Your long service on the Council is greatly appreciated by this taxpayer and citizen. If I ever grow up and decide to run, and subsequently get elected to that board, I want to be just like you. (Well, except for that WMS stance of yours).

    You make a good point, but…

    There might be some recompense compromise between a full time salary for the mayor and where it currently stands.

    Paul… it is my considered opinion that you are living in a dream world and not the real world. I’m confident your “first proposal” would get voted down very quickly, however I’m sure Council would welcome you to donate your stipend to some worthy cause and you could claim the moral high ground on that issue,

  8. Paul Elledge
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    David, the real world is whatever we make it. It’s not hard to refrain from taking advantage of other people. Just don’t do it.