Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Could you be the mayor?

Wauwatosa, mayor, salaries

While eating one of Cranky Al's sinful cinnamon rolls this morning, I noticed former alder and state assemblyman senator Jim Sullivan at the next table. Really, I tried not to eavesdrop on his animated political talk with a friend. But tonight's pending discussion of mayoral compensation by the Committee on Employee Relations was on my mind.

So I interrupted, introducing myself (I've met Sullivan before, but women my age are largely invisible and people have trouble remembering us. Which makes it easy to eavesdrop, but I digress). I asked Sullivan what he thought about the salary question.

Should the council raise the mayoral salary for the next term of office? Right now, the mayor gets $22,500 a year, the same salary the mayor got in 1984. Then, it was a decent salary, equivalent to $50,000. Today, well, it's $22,000.

The arguments for the raise are that it's long overdue, the mayor and most of her predecessors have worked a lot more than half time, the salary limits the kind of people who can or will run for office, and it's kind of embarrassing to pay so little.

On the con side, it's a part-time job, we get good mayors for the price, the economy sucks, the budget hasn't got room for more expenditures, and we have a well-paid professional staff to do the administrative work anyway.

Sullivan gave a thorough and well-thought answer that included many of the points above. "This topic keeps coming up. But no one really wants to deal with it," he said. "There will be a motion but no second. It won't go anywhere."

Which is exactly what happened following statements by other alders, key personnel, and a few of us citizens. Two of the five committee members were gone, and the subject will come up again in two weeks. You can let your alders know where you stand or show up to tell them in person then.

There are good arguments on both sides. But I disagree with one point made by nearly all of  those who were opposed and claimed "I can't tell my unemployed constituents that we are giving the mayor a raise."

Why not, if it's what you think is right and fair? How do your unemployed constituents benefit from jobs that pay very little and ask very much? How do we as a group benefit from the constant driving down of ordinary wages, or the lack of getting raises that reflect an increasing cost of living as well as our increased workloads? We are all in this together, and we rise or sink together. Unless you are an exceedingly wealth person, in which case you have your very own lifeboat and don't need to worry about the rest of us.

My friend Tom Gaertner thinks the salary should not be raised, that it's a part-time job, and we nearly always get more than we pay for. He'd run, he said, if he were retired.

To run for mayor of Tosa, you really need to be retired. Or to have an understanding spouse or partner with a family supporting job. A student might be able to do the job.

But not someone like me, a single mom with a demanding job. Maybe not someone like you, either

The job is, as Tom says, what it is. But is it what it could be? Maybe, just maybe, someone from a larger set of people would bring new possiblities -- a broader viewpoint, a different set of ideas.

Which just might be the real reason we don't want to go there.

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