GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
The Peetiebeeties (PTBTs – Pitchfork- and Torch-Bearing Townsfolk) may mob the Takoma Park city council meeting tonight.
There are two unrelated issues that have suddenly become linked in some of the city’s higher-temperature heads. Already hot because the council “Gang of Four” is not listening to them, they hit molten-lava stage when they heard council is about to give itself a salary raise, including benefits.
The Gang of Four are the four (out of 7) councilmembers who are pushing a city charter change and supporting ordinances that would require future city managers to live in or near the city, and that give the council a role in hiring city department heads.
A salary increase has been discussed for decades. Most people – residents and politicians – agree that the stipends they get now are token payments given how many hours of work councilmembers put in. However, councilmembers don’t like to give themselves raises. It looks bad.
White, liberal guilt won out, however. The council would be more diverse if the job paid well, say some residents and politicians. The council tends to be white, middle-aged or older, middle-class home-owners who can afford to take the time to play politics, some say. They despair that renters and people of other ages, income level, and ethnic groups are not involved in local politics. If the position paid better and had health insurance, they reason, those people would be more involved.
So the PREVIOUS council appointed a resident’s committee to come up with objective recommendations. They’ve reported back to the council a couple of times, discussed their findings, adjusted them according to council feedback, and now the recommendations are coming up for a vote. The new salaries would not start until after the 2013 city elections.
We stress that this has been a long, PUBLIC process involving a citizen’s committee and several public discussions with opportunity for citizen comment. There is nothing sudden or secret about it.
[NOTE: An earlier version of this column reported that the pay-raise was part of the “consent agenda” of items passed without discussion. That was incorrect. It is a separate item and open to council discussion, public comment, and revision. Councilmember Seth Grimes reports that “Fred Schultz plans to propose an amendment to eliminate payment toward health-care costs for council members who do not enroll in the city’s plan — that I plan to support.”]
By a masterstroke of planning – NOT – the vote on the council’s raise was scheduled the same night as the controversial residential-requirement vote.
Years of effort to avoid looking bad at this moment have snagged on a nail. The council will vote themselves a raise before an audience of muttering townsfolk, their eyes glittering like their pitchfork tines in the blaze of the angry torchlights.
The entertainment starts at 7:30 at the city council chambers, and broadcast on the city cable channel.