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Why pay more?

10.21.2008 by André Natta · → Leave a comment

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I hop on a plane and fly out to Colorado and hope that big news stories don’t happen while I’m in the air and getting settled in. Now that I’ve been reminded that news will never wait (and that inevitably there will be two stories)…

It will be extremely difficult for the city council to justify a raise for those that follow them into office next year, despite the best of intentions from Councilor Miriam Witherspoon. While the jobs are part-time, many in this current crop do treat it as full time work. Many would argue however that it as the price of being a public servant – doing the work of the people for a small amount of money and their gratitude.

The pay scale should be reviewed in the near future as there is some discrepancy in relation to what they do and what they receive as compensation. However one look at the financial situation that many of the city’s residents find themselves in suggests that if passed we would most certainly see faces change on the council dais next year as it would prove that our current crop were out of touch with what’s going on around them.

Councilor (soon to be County Commissioner) William Bell made the point that the council should not be able to increase their salaries. Those are words that should be heeded in this case. If the proposal was allowed to be presented in its current state it would  be extremely difficult to justify that 120% increase to many long time residents, especially those the who are about to watch one of their community’s anchors, albeit one that has been floundering for some time, begin the process of shutting down after 100 years. The two stories are in fact related (yes, they are).

The council should be encouraging the mayor to reach into the bag from which he’s already promised more than $1 billion in funds to find a way to keep Carraway‘s doors open or at least find a company that would be able to take over the hospital and fulfill its current plans for the area.

Before we go any further, we need to make clear the fact that the city has done what it could to try to help the facility stay open. The former Parisian warehouse at Carraway Boulevard and 12th Street North was torn down in June in hopes that a renaissance long promised to the area’s residents was about to be kicked into high gear. That renaissance was tied to a resurgent Carraway.

The pending closure of the facility, despite the “great” opportunity provided by having a piece of property ready for redevelopment (note sarcasm), is a situation that is tied to the current economic crisis but one that needs to be dealt with swiftly. Making sure that people in Birmingham are employed and that we’re continuing to go after the tax revenue that is desperately needed to complete many of the projects on the boards would go a long way towards influencing residents that our city council needs a pay raise, though it would make more sense to deal with such a raise after next year’s elections (perhaps by the voters).

Our city is currently much better off than other larger cities like San Diego, CA and Newark, NJ (two cities that come to mind as I watch an interview on television this morning with both cities’ mayors talking about their financial crises). For the council to reward itself financially for that accomplishment is definitely not the most effective way to demonstrate that fiscal responsibility.

While I’m starting my first day as a Main Street practitioner in more than 18 months about the time that the council will most likely begin to debate this issue, I’ll catch the highlights of the meeting later on today. I’m sure that most of the city will be doing the same to see how the first issue of the 2009 council race shakes out.

André Natta is the managing editor of The Terminal.

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