Pay Raises for County Commissioners? About Damn Time.

Categories: Schutze

Guilty little secret time. I'm glad the Dallas County Commissioners voted themselves a 4 percent pay raise Tuesday.

I would appreciate it if we could keep this just between us here on Unfair Park, because it's not exactly the best thing for me to be saying out loud in terms of my own personal career interests.

They deserve it. And more. Yeah. I wish they could boost the pay for that job even more. But let's back up. Yesterday between our own Eric Nicholson here and Mike Hashimoto at The Dallas Morning News, I think we got all the requisite digs and snarks in.

Frankly, we're beginning to get a little worried about Jim.
What about all the stupid stuff they do like fencing off reporters so they can't close enough to ask Commissioner John Wiley Price about the FBI investigation he's under? Did they ever think about giving the taxpayers a break instead of themselves?

Sure. I say stuff like that all the time too. It's the job. The founding fathers didn't put freedom of the press into the Constitution so government could get more support and adulation.

But like most reporters who cover local government over time, I have developed a totally grudging, unwilling, unexpected and, frankly, awkward admiration for people drawn to public service.

I sure as hell ain't gonna do it. And couldn't. Wouldn't be any good at it. Few of us would. But some people just are, and our system of government and civic politics is very good at recruiting those few among us who do have the gift.

The thing you do not get from media coverage -- sure as hell not from me very often -- is how good the good ones are and how rare is the gift. I could tick you off a list of local politicians that might surprise you, especially given how far some are from my own political persuasion, whom I nevertheless consider to be or have been extremely gifted at the business of local government.

Dallas County Commissioners Elba Garcia and Maureen Dickey, the late John Leedom, former Commissioner Roy Orr, and, yes, in spite of everything else, John Wiley Price. Don't even get me started on the Dallas City Council, where I have witnessed a parade of brilliance over the years -- something I really try hard to keep to myself.

I don't think people can even imagine what those jobs are really all about without witnessing it at close quarters. The chief executive of a private company has it so easy, so simple next to what local elected officials face every morning when they wake up and maybe even in their dreams. Elected officials would love to have something as easy as mere profit to worry about.

Everybody wants something from them. Everybody wants it right now. Everybody's going to die if they don't get it. Everybody thinks the elected official is a treacherous low-I.Q. bribe-taking pervert if the official fails to give it to them.

Problem? Nobody knows what it is.

Seriously. We don't go to local government for anything concrete like money. We go to it for happiness, a better life, a nicer neighborhood, less fear, more security, healthier health, more optimistic optimism.

If you put the typical constituent call on a post-it-note, it would say, "Constituent Schutze calls, anxious about cancer from mosquito spray, desires a more certain sense of personal well-being, would like council member to call and allay fears of mortality."

Council member looks at it, starts to put it in manila folder, pauses, says to assistant, "Does this say, 'fears of morality?'"

"No. 'Fears of mortality.'"
"OK That's a different file then."

It comes at them from every direction, all day long, and they have to be able to process all of that through this kind of gestalt-computer that can weigh every single thing everybody demands and come out with an answer at the bottom of the page, "Do this," or, "No way."

It's a gift, just like music, math, medicine, business or even that highest and most exquisitely arcane form of creative endeavor, blogging. A few people have it. Most do not. We should want to do everything we can to recruit the ones who do.

I'm not making the usual argument -- pay them or they will take bribes. Crooks take bribes no matter what they're paid. They do it because they like taking bribes.

I'm just saying that we should put a high value on public service and reward it accordingly. In order to serve, you shouldn't have to be either a rich retired guy or a pauper happy for any pay at all. We want a system where the pay is at least good enough that anybody -- a teacher or a young lawyer or a woman who owns half a liquor store -- could look at it and say, "Yeah, I could do that without bankrupting my family." Well, you're never going to get the woman with the half liquor store, but you see what I mean.

So I'm glad they got a raise on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Just don't tell anybody. Now, while I'm feeling all respectable and Sweety Two Shoes, gotta take this hatchet back to the grinding wheel, see if I can do something about all these unsightly red stains.

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Lets close some more schools, parks, pools and libraries.


Did you even read the little blurb you linked to Jim?  The injustice of this vote literally leaps off the page.  It is a county-wide raise of 4%.  OK, I'm still good with that.  However, the commissioners' court automatically gets the 4%, the rest of the county workers' raises will be determined by their managers (not always the most stalwart characters, as we read about yesterday) and dependent upon performance.  


Your precious commissioners have behaved exactly as a corporate executive would, given themselves a nice pay raise, regardless of the level of their performance.


I really don't think you get it anymore, Jim. The problem is not so much that these folks are paid too much, that point can be argued ad nauseam.  Some are valuable, some less so.


The problem is perception. Do they (do you) realize that voting themselves a pay increase when their constituencies are still reeling from the worst economy in a century seems more than a little tone deaf?


I hope folks are watching and remembering who these people are.


You say "We don't go to local government for anything concrete like money."  Have you even met John Wiley Price?  If that isn't an example of a local politico using his government office to line his pockets, then there there never will be such an example.  He usually gets his raise by jacking up his extortion rates.


Didnt Mary Suhm and Tom Perkins just give themselves raises as well?


Yep, guess its the season. Must be nice to institute non-performance based pay raises with taxpayers monies.


So you're saying that JWPrice may well be a corrupt politician, but he's a damn fine commissioner. Shades of Louisiana politics.


Yeah, Jim. I'll bet there are quite a few teachers that look at that salary and say: Yeah, I could do that without bankrupting my family.

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