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Thursday, June 13, 2013
On Monday, the second reading for a 28.5 percent pay increase supported by Mayor David Bowers and council members Bill Bestpitch, Sherman Lea and Anita Price, the current Roanoke City Council majority, will take place.
I take issue that the coverage on this matter continues to lump all of our council members into an all-encompassing “the council.” Council members Court Rosen, Ray Ferris and David Trinkle disagree and are expected again to vote no.
The Roanoke Times conducted a poll of its readers that sends a very clear message. The 745 respondents voted by 98 percent against the 28.5 percent pay increase.
This poll on roanoke.com asked some specific questions regarding this issue. Here are some of the results: Only 21 people said council should receive a 28.5 percent increase. About 55 percent said council should receive the same 2 percent annual pay raise as other city employees. And about 42 percent said council should receive no raise at all.
In addition, there were many letters to the editor, and not a single one was in support of this raise.
However, there were only eight speakers on the topic at two council meetings; seven spoke against the 28.5 percent pay increase, and one spoke in favor — a former councilman, who while serving on council also asked for more salary for his service.
The solution in the business world is the stockholders have the final say on who serves as the board of directors. In the political world, the city council is the board of directors, and the voters have the final say.
So, if the voters, the stockholders, have overwhelmingly opposed this sharp pay increase, and the elected council, the board of directors, consisting of Bestpitch, Bowers, Lea and Price, approves the increase against the wishes of the voters, then this select group of council members would be removed from the board at the next annual meeting.
In this case, that meeting will be the May 2014 council election.
However, the only member who can be removed at the next council election is Bestpitch. The others — Bowers, Lea and Price — will have two more years before they are on the ballot again.
What is still very confusing here is why these select council members continue to run for these council seats when they think the money and benefits are not good enough. And they complain about the time, the work and the toll on their family and business life.
While I fully realize it is none of my or anyone else’s business what these council members do in their full-time careers, it was reported that Bestpitch recently quit his non-council job.
Also, Price is a retired school employee, and Lea is retired from the Virginia criminal justice system. That leaves Bowers as the only one of the four working a full-time job. I mention this only because these four have pleaded and made the case they’ve sacrificed from their day jobs to serve on council — positions they ask the voters to give them.
The ability to speak on behalf of thousands of neighbors in their own city on the issues of utmost importance is an honor. I view receiving one of these council seats as a privilege to have been chosen to serve.
With that said, I find it confusing why these four suddenly feel they should vote for the largest raise in the history of Roanoke City Council.
So we will see in the spring at the next stock holders meeting if the voters agree with this assessment.
The issue is simple. The 28.5 percent increase in pay for council and 15 percent increase for the mayor that are supported by Bestpitch, Bowers, Lea and Price are absurd.
And one parting thought that I hope will encourage you as a voter to act. If you don’t vote in the May 2014 council election, then your proxy goes to the current group that supported this 28 percent pay increase: Bestpitch, Bowers, Lea and Price.
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