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Thursday, May 9, 2013
I was shocked to hear of the pay increase proposed by Roanoke Mayor David Bowers and council members Bill Bestpitch, Sherman Lea and Anita Price. As a long-time guy who has worked in politics in Roanoke for more than 45 years, I see this is as an unbelievable power grab.
In working with many candidates over many elections, I have never witnessed elected officials ask for a pay increase as large as these four. I have never had a potential candidate ask what does this job pay or what are the benefits?
None of these candidates was forced to run for council. Most run for public office to give back to the community, not take from it.
Roanoke has a city manager form of government, and city council is elected to serve as the board of directors. This is not a for-profit company, and pay for performance is not how part-time council members are compensated. They receive a supplement to be able to attend to business on behalf of citizens.
These four need to step aside if they think the job takes more time than they can afford to spend for the pay. They are fooling themselves if they think they are irreplaceable. The city was here before they got here, and it should be OK if they are gone.
Granted, council members can spend their personal time meeting ever-increasing demands to attend neighborhood meetings and scheduled events in order to better understand the city’s needs. And time to meet this responsibility is a big factor when deciding to run for public office. Do you have the time to serve? Not will you be paid enough to serve?
When a candidate asks voters to give him the public trust to serve on council, it is expected the candidate would have determined whether he has the time to serve and is available to serve. The council salary should not be a deciding factor.
As a check and balance, the General Assembly established a pay scale to prevent local officials from abusing their power and voting for a pay that gets out of hand, and to require good judgment for what each locality can afford to pay.
Now for the problem. Previous elected folks on Roanoke City Council chose not to increase their pay much over the last decade.
Now we have Bestpitch, Bowers, Lea and Price wanting to make this up all in one pay increase. How nice they have the four votes to do it!
This is abuse of the public trust, and I would encourage residents to show up at the council budget meeting Monday at 2 p.m. in council chambers to express to these four council members — Bestpitch, Bowers, Lea and Price — that it is not acceptable to do this just because they can.
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