June 29, 2013 11:56:03 PM
Tuesday night, a new Columbus city council will convene for its first meeting. In reality, there's not much new about this group since Marty Turner is the lone new council member.
Of course, one new face can change the dynamics of a group, although how Turner's arrival will impact the way the council does business is, at least to this point, a matter of conjecture.
But Tuesday does represent the first official meeting of a new administration. In that sense, it's a fresh start.
As such, we recommend that the council's first official act would be to pass a motion that would restore the confidence of its citizens.
We recommend that someone -- there would be something wonderfully encouraging if it were Turner -- make a motion to rescind the 23-percent pay raise the council voted itself in its last meeting.
The back-door means in which the council pay raise was added to the agenda was a deliberate attempt to avoid a public debate on the issue. Ward 2 councilman "Whisperin" Joe Mickens made the motion to add the item to the agenda; it was not on any version of the printed council agenda and Ward 5 councilman Kabir "a pay raise is a moot point" Karriem eagerly seconded the motion. Ultimately the proposal to jack up the council's salary from $17,500 to $22,500 passed, 3-2, with Mickens, Karriem and Ward 1's Gene Taylor voting for the raise, and Ward 6's Bill Gavin and Ward 3's Charlie Box voting no. Fred Stewart, who chose not to even show up for his last meeting as councilman, would have been an interesting vote. It would have been very interesting to see what Mayor Robert Smith would have done had the vote ended with a 3-3 split.
The citizens who were denied the opportunity to discuss whether a pay raise was appropriate, have certainly made their views known since.
It is clear that the council's weak defense of voting itself a raise -- built largely around the idea of being "competitive" with what other cities are paying -- is unconvincing. It's not as though councilmen are in danger of leaving one city to be a councilman in another city, after all.
Others have pointed out that if anyone should be getting raises, it is the city's workers.
There is also the matter that this same administration will almost certainly soon raise taxes. That's right: The council will raise its pay and raise taxes in the same year. Policy doesn't get much worse than that.
Will these arguments fall on deaf ears? Will the council, in yet another show of arrogant indifference, choose to ignore such valid protests? Or by rescinding the pay raise, will the council put public interest above personal interest?
If so, it's going to be a long four years. The council will profit, but the people will be asked to make sacrifices. That is the antithesis of leadership.
The city is going to face some serious challenges over the next few years. It needs the support of the people if those challenges are to be overcome.
Stuffing your pockets in times such as these does nothing to inspire confidence or rally support.
For that reason, Tuesday provides the council a great opportunity to right a wrong.
Will the council have the integrity required to do that?
We will soon know.
If we don't already.