Our View: 'No' to council pay raise

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Election 2006

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In Referendum 2A, the Steamboat Springs City Council asks voters for a pay raise.

The increase is necessary, most council members say, because the time commitment required to serve on council has increased. But Councilman Paul Strong, the only council member who voted against putting the raise on the ballot, thinks the council should reduce its time obligations rather than increase its pay.

We couldn't agree more, and we urge voters to reject Referendum 2A.

Specifically, 2A would:

- Increase pay for the council president (Ken Brenner) from $883 a month to $1,200 a month.

- Increase pay for the president pro-tem (Susan Dellinger) from $773 a month to $1,000 a month.

- Increase pay for other council members from $632 a month to $900 a month.

The referendum would take effect Jan. 1. In following years, council would get a pay adjustment determined by the Denver-Boulder Consumer Price Index. That adjustment has been in place since the council received its last pay raise in 2001.

Referendum advocates say council members are working more than ever before. Brenner, who operates Performance Sports Medicine, said he spends 40 hours a week or more on council business. Brenner said the pay increase will make it easier for people who have "normal jobs" to serve on council.

We disagree. An extra $300 a month isn't going to help someone with a normal job spend 40 hours a week on council business. The only way to attract people with full-time jobs is to make the time commitment reasonable.

Certainly there isn't a public expectation that the council work 40 hours a week. Rather, we suspect that council members' present time commitments largely are self-imposed. As Strong noted last week, "the council has a great tendency to micromanage."

Such micromanagement has to stop.

According to the council mission statement, the council "serves its citizens through the development and implementation of plans and partnerships that provide quality facilities, services, and programs for a diverse, vibrant, and healthy community." Council policies charge council members with doing research, upholding city ethics, making decisions and enhancing communication.

Important functions? Yes. Full-time jobs? No.

The city has more than 250 employees who are paid to provide city services. The council should establish policy and set goals for the city; city staff should do the actual work. Council members should review their actions and make sure their work isn't duplicating or replacing staff work.

Council meetings should have manageable agendas, and council should look for ways to reduce, not increase, the number of meetings. Last week, the council considered a new policy that would give authority to the Planning Commission to decide on projects that meet city codes. That's a no-brainer. Why have a Planning Commission if council is going to duplicate the commission's work in every case?

We need council members who can make decisions, set policy, trust city staff and most of all, embrace the civic volunteer spirit of the council position. This referendum encourages the opposite behavior. Vote "no" on 2A.

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