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12/12/02  Why Does Charter Review Commission want a High Paid Council?

Listening to the council today was an ordeal.  What  would they do all day if there were no tax abatements to dole out?  Not just tax abatements but they also voted to make the final pay off on another John Ware crooked deal.

When the Mayor made her annual statement against the Big 8 payoff and the original deal, Don Hill started a chorus of "we ought to be happy to pay shakedown money to the Big 8", "sports events book up our hotels", etc., etc., etc.  Of course, Mayor PreTend Mary Poss chimed in with how much she loves sports and the importance of sports to her and Dallas.  I was just listening to the radio and still had to laugh at the picture of how important physical activities, much less athletic events, are to Mrs. Poss.

I was hooked because it sounded like it was going to be a fun day at City Hall.  It got better and better.  They revisited the North Dallas water tax that Ed Oakley and Ron Kirk pushed through last year.  The Water Dept. wants to spend another $500,000 to continue to educate us about water conservation.  That got tabled.  

Before they broke for lunch, Mayor PreTend Poss named the restaurant "furnishing" their lunch and desert.  It was like the non-commercials on PBS.

One fun thing to watch for between now and council filing deadline in March -- Oakley and Mark Housewright trying to one-up each other.  They were discussing a new program at MLK Center where the community can cash checks until fairly late in the evening.  Shakedown Chaney took a staff person through the paces as if he was an attorney cross-examining her, when he knew the answers in advance, but acted as if he was happily surprised.  Then Ed Oakley pretty much said he was responsible for this new private-public achievement, and he may have been because he found the "young man" who is the brains behind this rec center bank operation.

Maybe I'm mellowing, but they didn't seem so horrible today.  Well, no worse than usual, but not much better.  While they were in executive session and lunching on those donated lunches and I was munching on my self-purchased lunch, I was thumbing through the DMN (on-line) and caught Gromer Jeffers' column.

Looking at new way to boost council pay
by GROMER JEFFERS JR. / The Dallas Morning News
. . . future mayors and City Council members may get a financial windfall, if they accept it.
   Commission members are brainstorming ways to boost the pay of the mayor and council members, with a goal of each getting $125,000 and $75,000 a year.
. . . The politically astute in Dallas realize that voters are not likely to approve such salary changes. So commission members are toying with a charter amendment proposal that would create a compensation committee for the mayor and City Council.
    The committee would determine the salaries of the mayor and council members. The recommendations would have to be approved by the council. . . .
"Stay away from council pay," said council member Sandy Greyson. "We just did it. It's too soon to try it again." 
. . .  But commission members like the proposal for two reasons:
? It allows salary increase plans to evade voters who historically are opposed to such changes.
? And it provides light cover for council members who don't want to be put in the position of developing their own pay raise proposals.
   Council member Veletta Forsythe Lill said . . . "I'm not comfortable with it," . . .
    Commission member and former council member Don Hicks said council pay raises should be tied to the raises of other city employees . . . .
    DeMetris Sampson orchestrated the southern sector campaign for the successful 2001 vote on council pay. She said Dallas remained polarized, with the north against added compensation and southern sector voters in favor. . . .
    Michael Jung urged the commission to be cautious about putting a compensation committee proposal before residents. . . .
  "Some people feel it would not only take down the increase, but all of our recommendations," he said. . . . 

Well, that changes everything.  It's one thing to listen to a bunch of buffoons making pompous pronouncements, but to pay them $75,000 to do what they are doing would make us dumber than them.

Can you believe it?  We are laying off people who really do something for their salary.  Our police and firefighters are underpaid.  The council wants to change benefits employees have had for decades.  This Commission is looking for ways to pay a bunch of amateurs $75,000 a year.  Talk about out of touch with reality!

I have been surprised at how both civilian and public safety personnel do not seem to realize what is going on out in the private sector.  People are taking salary cuts and freezes to protect their jobs.  Those folks don't like it, but they are doing what they must to stay employed.  When the Mayor looked at SIP pay and now accrued sick leave, city personnel went ballistic.  You have to wonder if they read the paper.  I don't agree with tampering with the benefit package for city rank and file, but I do think City Hall management should be prohibited from accruing sick leave.   

What worries me most about the changes in City Hall personnel matters is that we are laying off the new, high energy folks and the dead wood have seniority and will keep their jobs.

It is ludicrous for anyone to consider paying a newly elected city council member $75,000 when a police or firefighter rookie makes less than $35,000.  I'm telling you this is just the first step to ending term limits.  Being a council member is not a full-time job and should not be.  Talk about denial!

When you have the ODB wanting to demolish the Mercantile complex for "green space" Downtown at the same time we must borrow money (the bond package) to fix our deplorable streets, you know you have stepped into Alice's World on the other side of the Looking Glass.  But, then, the ODB look at the "Big Picture".  Reality is for the little people who must pay for those "Big Pictures".

It is particularly disheartening when citizens are serving on a commission to review our form of government and their first priority is creating a scheme to let council salaries be raised without you voting on the matter.  We don't need a high paid council of amateurs running things, we need to pay our rank and file personnel (civilian and public safety) good to high salaries so that we are getting the best professionals to run things at City Hall.  What we have currently is a bunch of very high paid Managers, Asst. Managers and Department Heads who don't deliver.

It is bad enough the Charter Review Commission is even considering salary increases when it's been just over a year since we gave the council a raise.  But, this Commission is trying to create a system that keeps Dallas taxpayers out of the decision making process regarding council pay.  

I am saying right now -- VOTE NO to any suggested change in our city government or process.  NO to changing checks and balances at City Hall.  NO to salary increases for council.  NO to changing council terms or term limits.  Calling this Charter Review Commission was a huge and expensive mistake.










  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8