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MailTribune.com
  • City council members should be paid

  • Recently the Mail Tribune ran an article titled "Medford council studies creating stipend." Unpaid Councilor Dan Bunn, in a quandary between his conservative fiscal leanings and the reality of public service, said,"Two weeks ago I would have been dead set against it." What he would have been "dead set against" is the looming discussion of a stipend or salary for members of the City Council.
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  • Recently the Mail Tribune ran an article titled "Medford council studies creating stipend." Unpaid Councilor Dan Bunn, in a quandary between his conservative fiscal leanings and the reality of public service, said,"Two weeks ago I would have been dead set against it." What he would have been "dead set against" is the looming discussion of a stipend or salary for members of the City Council.
    For an elected official this is a bold confession. The age-old question of salaries for public officials has been discussed for many years. How much is too much? Should they be paid at all? (Ben Franklin was for not paying any salary.) What is an appropriate raise?
    In my opinion, all city councils should receive a salary or stipend of modest amount depending on population. Washington state has a statute starting at $400 a month for all city councils. This can be increased by the people or the council by vote.
    You may say, why would any conservative be for such an expense to the taxpayers? Because its the right thing to do.
    The city staff gets paid handsomely. Our council, which represents "we the people," should be paid.
    Don't get me wrong. Most bureaucrats are hard-working individuals doing the best job possible. However, our elected representatives have a responsibility to lessen government. Liberty is the essential ingredient, and a small remuneration is well worth it for that protection.
    There are two examples of this remuneration question: one good, one bad.
    A few years ago we elected county commissioners who raised their salaries from $68,000 to $86,000 (more than 25 percent) with today's salaries at $100,000 plus benefits. The county administrator was given a sweetheart deal for $200,000 with car and house payments. For a small place like Jackson County it doesn't pass the smell test, or then again, it does smell.
    When people in private industry are unemployed, underemployed, underpaid or part-time for lack of full-time work, these raises are grotesque, and the negotiation team for the county was either naive or purposeful. The public was outraged, and some of us still remember the debate and the players. This is a bad public example of greed, avarice and self-indulgence. That's why we have a ballot box.
    Now for the good. His name was Harry Truman and he left the White House "dead broke." In a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan quoted David McCullough as saying, "He didn't know how he would make a living. His great concern was not to do anything that might exploit or 'commercialize' the office he just left."
    Before President Truman died at 88 years old, he was interviewed by the New York Times, which reported, "Harry feels that he's square with the world, that he gave his best and got its best in return."
    That statement has a wonderful, rhythmic ring to it. It sounds like honesty. May it always be with our public officials.
    Joel Marks lives in Medford.
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