Councilmen Steve Salazar and Tennell Atkins are talking to the DMN about changing the city charter to boost the pay for councilmen. Currently, council members receive $37,500 year; Salazar and Atkins think $80,000 to $100,000 sounds more appropriate. To a certain extent, the idea makes sense: There is no way that a regular, highly qualified person can legitimately make a living as a councilman on $37,500, considering the amount of time they spend on their job.
So what we typically wind up with are three types of people on the council: People like Mayor Tom Leppert, who already has so much money that he isn’t cashing the checks on his $60,000 mayor salary; people like Angela Hunt, who are fortunate to have a spouse with a good job so they can afford to quit theirs to handle city business; and people like the recently convicted Don Hill, who gave up so much work at his law practice to be a councilman that he eventually resorted to illegal shakedowns to re-fill his pockets.
More after the jump…
I’m not endorsing this particular proposal (it’s not even in writing yet) at this particular time (when a lot of people are out of work), but at some point, we’re going to need to consider more pay for people serving on the council. We can talk all we want about how $100,000 a year is too much money for what is considered to be a part-time council job, but the truth is that most of us simply can’t afford to run for the position, even if we want to do the work. And the fewer good people we have filling up the slots for each election means we’re gambling our city’s future on people who may not be putting our interests first once they’re seated at the council horseshoe.
And if we’re talking about paying elected officials in Dallas, the group that really needs a raise is DISD board members, who are paid nothing. Talk about a job that gives you little positive publicity but also involves a full-time commitment … it’s amazing we haven’t had a Don Hill-type scandal involving DISD board members, considering the millions that run through the board’s fingers vs. the complete lack of remuneration board members receive.
Yes, each of these elected officials went into the election with their eyes presumably wide open, knowing the amount of work they were signing on for. But we can’t expect good people to work for either not-enough or nothing forever; sooner or later, personal economics will force the good people will stay on the sidelines, and the greediest people will raise their hands instead.