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Salary increases and Campaign reform;  Could this bring in better council candidates?

Item Q on Tuesday’s agenda is a discussion on Council and Mayor pay.  Currently the Mayor makes $620 a month and a council member makes $300 a month.  Look at the read ahead and you can see some research Councilmember Shaw provided that compares this to cities like Kettering and Centerville.  From my perspective, I ran this first term for reasons that did not involve the pay.  After three years’ of experience I am beginning to believe the city would be better off if the pay was high enough to entice qualified professionals to trade their valuable time for compensation.   
 
There were three reasons I ran for office.   One was because I believed I could make better decisions with my tax dollars than those that were representing me on council[1].  Three years later and that has proven true even with four different members of council.  You can see this just by looking at the decision to spend $2.4 million dollars to “fix” the water pressure issue for those North of I-70[2].  
 
Below I map out how much residents would need to pay council members if they were to try to entice enough people with a minimum of my credentials to come and provide sound operational and financial decisions as if it were their job.  I also advocate for a campaign system, probably in the form of a charter amendment, that would make it much more likely for non-politicians to step up and run for office.
 
I will start with the campaign proposal because it is much more affordable than if the city tried to pay council members at the rate of my normal salary requirements.  I think there are a lot of people with good business and professional backgrounds that could serve on council and make sound decisions with our tax dollars but do not want to spend the many hours pounding the streets campaigning. 
 
I would like to see the city provide two things that would help voters decide who to support as their next elected official.  First, for each candidate, a two sided 8.5 by 11 flyer with one side being resume type information[3] that is verified by an independent agent.  The second side would contain a subjective message from the candidate.  The city would them make this set of flyers widely available.  For instance include it in the water bill.   The other item I think would be useful would be a method for candidates to comment on current issues before the council within the city’s webpage[4]
 
How much the city would have to pay in order to get someone with my qualifications to trade their time for the same amount as they trade their time in their “day” job?
 
I believe the Mayor and Council positions are similar to those of a board of directors.  The numbers in the table below reflect the hours we should be spending based upon a system where staff (those being paid full time salaries) provides council professional read ahead materials for us to review and if needed study[5]
Task Hours per event Total per month
Council Meetings 4 8
Council Meeting preparation 4 8
Work Sessions 5 10
Work Session Preparation 5 10
     
 
From the table we see that to do the most important part of the job takes about 36 hours a month.
 
Other things that are important include ribbon cuttings, parades, town hall, employee retirements and other city related functions.  Estimate this as another 5 hours a month on average.
 
I believe it is important to let residents know what you think, what is going on in the city and to also get feedback on issues especially those issues that may be contentious.  Those would include hours I spend on this web page.   They also would include the hours I spent trying to educate residents on the charter amendments and other issues through flyers.  I easily spent 40 hours each in August, September and October trying to make sure people knew about the one and done charter amendment
 
One of the other things I have done since being elected is monitor Facebook to see if there are any issues worthy of bringing up to the City Manager.  This was a lot more fruitful the first couple years.  One of the first things I sent his way was an incident where a company we contracted to do road work put this big pile of dirt in the middle of the road and did not put cones out before it.  Lately its seems most of the posts are dominated by the clever remarks of the click clackers, every now and again there are items that I send to the city manager for his attention.    
 
To prevent sticker shock, let’s ignore the Facebook and time spent on flyers and just use the 36 hours from the bare minimum table and the 5 hours for ceremonial tasks.  This makes a total of 41 hours a month.  My skills and experience command $56 an hour on the open market.  This works out to $2,296 per month
 
The current salary for members of council essentially makes them volunteers.  Under this volunteer system, we have attracted people that vote to approve a $60,000 purchase even though staff tells them no other alternatives were even examined.  A council that approves a $2.4 million-dollar project where they do not know if 40 people will benefit or 400.  A project that has a very high chance over pressuring some houses.  It maybe 40 but it could be as high as 1000.  Of course, council does not know how many because these volunteers do not demand the information needed for them to know. 
 
I appreciate Mr. Shaw’s background work and his proposal.  However, there is a great need to entice those residents that can bring a “Board of Directors” attitude and qualifications to these positions.  I know this community has people like this but too often I hear them say stepping forward and doing the work is not worth the aggravations.    Let’s start the discussion of future salaries at $2000 a month for Council Members and $2300 a month for the Mayor[6]
 
 
 
 
[1] I grew up in a very cynical group of friends who claim every professional sport is fixed and every politician is crooked.  Before I was elected I ate at the Huber Heights café a few times and heard the same claims in those conversations that I heard growing up.  In fact, the reputation was not just limited to that establishment but was widespread throughout the city.  I thought one of the best ways to see just how bad things were, was to get elected and get the inside scoop.  My solution to clean up the “every decision council makes is ‘political’ reputation” one prominent business owner said was prevalent, has been to try and bring all conversations about city business out into the public arena.  That has had mixed results and there is an element of the population that is clamoring to go back to the days where “council hashed it out in private” and then told us what was best for us.
  
[2] One member of council sent us a list of 28 complaints of low water pressure compiled since 2013 as a reason we need to spend $2.4 million dollars.  You can also read my articles “Do half the job now.  Do half later.  Costs 2 times as much.”  and “If council messes up your water pressure will you pay to fix it?
[3] For instance: Job and education history, police background check, scores on national tests like the GRE, ACT, SAT, Bar exam and / or memberships in professional organizations.
[4] There are a couple of residents that tell us through Facebook that they would like to run for council.  When I see these posts, I invite them to talk about issues like the $2.4 million dollar water pressure fix.  We already know 7 of the 8 current members of council support spending this money even though all the “documented” instances they can site could be fixed for $50,000 or less.  It would be good for residents to know if the thought process of the prospective replacement council members was any better.   
[5] Obviously, I have not been able to get council to back this concept.  Look at the energy aggregation debate.  On one side, you have me that recognized staff was not doing their job correctly and working to have them correct the deficiencies.  On the other side, you had a lawyer that was making up reasons why council should not have oversite of staff and convincing some members of council to design a system where council would be prevented from doing the job we are elected to do. 
[6] I know this proposal isn’t going to go anywhere but this article was almost titled, Tom McMasters will not be running for mayor.  Those of you familiar with my campaign material know that I highlight the fact that Marylin and I jointly make the decision on if I am going to spend my (family) time and (family) money trying to improve the political landscape.   When we started to talk about me running again for mayor a lot of the discussion was about the click clackers.  Her point was a lot like the response I get from other intelligent people that I would like to see step up.  “It’s not worth the aggravation”.  My original thought on pay increases was $1000 for council and $1100 for the mayor.   I brought this figure up hoping she might be persuaded.  Not so much.  This makes me wonder if that would be enough for others?  Even $2300 a month might not be enough but at this point there is no harm in trying.  And remember the old saying, you get what you pay for. 

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