Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Roanoke Times editorial board revels in their loathing of the mayor

AngerIt was a gift to The Roanoke Times Editorial Board from Mayor Bowers when he suggested or more like tiptoed around raising taxes Monday. On top of that he suggested a salary raise for city council and took the brunt of the heat for doing so.

The RTEB took no time in pleasuring themselves with the chance to take the Mayor to the woodshed for some waterboarding. They are after all still smarting from Bowers election win over Mark Lucas who they endorsed. (Get over it – Carl Rove did.) Their downright mouth-foaming hatred of Mayor Bowers oozed from every word in their editorial Tuesday. An editorial produced at breakneck speed I might add.

The RTEB throws “kisses” to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli compared to the “daggers” they throw at Mayor Bowers every chance they get.

Neither the city news beat reporter nor the RTEB explained how long it has been since they have received a raise. I would have to guess it has been 10 years because the raise they received July 1, 2007 was rolled back July 2009 to their salary rate prior to 2007. The raise initiated by then Mayor Nelson Harris got not a peep from the RTEB.

The rollback was suggested at a council briefing in April 2009 by council member Gwen Mason over the objection of then Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea who was the only “no” vote. Lea suggested that members of council who can afford it could opt to “donate all their salary.” (See minutes from the meeting below).

Not until July 1, 2012 was the July 1, 2007 raise restored. It was not a raise in 2012 but a restoration of the 2007 increase. To be exact per an inquiry to the city clerk the mayor’s salary was rolled back from $20,000 to $19,050, the vice-mayor from $16,560 to $15,688 and council members from $15,560 to $14,816 annually.

Councilman Bill Bestpitch did not suggest that council receive the maximum pay that the General Assembly allows. He only pointed out that other localities like Richmond do and it is based on population. That was a misleading presumption on the part of the RTEB.

Let me be clear that this is not an endorsement of a tax hike or a pay raise for city council that this commentary is about. There has been enough city “fee creep” through the years and temporary taxes to make me wonder why the RTEB has not raised their eyebrows until now.

The point of this commentary is to set the record straight on the council “pay raise” and their misleading editorial and the lack of historical reporting. It is the media’s responsibility to give its readers the whole truth and not cherry pick what only they want their readers to know.

By cherry picking and “partial reporting” The Roanoke Times whips the citizens into a frenzy in an attempt to manipulate them.

Far be it from me to defend the mayor and city council members at any time after observing them so closely over the years. But even I can recognize when my enemy does good and my friend does evil and I will point that out at every opportunity.

Mayor Bowers did “bad” suggesting a tax increase though he did not mention which taxes. Was it reinstating the meals tax on a permanent basis as the RTEB suggested in an editorial or was it a real estate tax increase he was suggesting? The RTEB’s “opinion” is based on who’s mouth it comes out of.

As I’ve followed city council these past years it has become apparent just how much “some” and not all council members and the mayor spend outside of council meetings. Whether they deserve a raise or not the citizens can decide but the news and RTEB have not made any attempt at adding up their time spent on committees, at events and with constituents. I may be a lone voice in realizing how time consuming it is especially for those that might be losing income from their career job.

Council and mayoral pay is relative to what sources of income the council members get from their everyday jobs. I won’t single any one member out but it is obvious who is “well heeled” enough to forgo any salary for their service and those members with only ample income. The cost for running for office (if you want to get elected) takes many thousands of dollars. In some cases a large chunk comes from their own pockets if donations lag. That right there keeps many citizens from even trying to seek office.

Though the General Assembly doesn’t allow it I would find it fair for council to receive a per meeting base pay. For example $200 per briefing and $200 per meeting they attend. If they are absent then no pay. On top of that they could then receive $100 per committee attendance and other amounts for a variety of demands from ribbon cuttings to neighborhood meetings when invited. There would be a cap with the cap for mayor being higher. Some council members are more active with constituents than others and should be rewarded.

Below are the minutes of the April, 2009 council briefing:

Following discussion regarding the Council’s budget, Council Member Mason offered a motion to have Council’s salaries returned to the 2007 amounts, eliminate funds for meals relating to joint meetings of the Council, and funds for training and development be reduced by half, adding that the City Attorney prepare the appropriate measure reflecting the reduction in salaries. Vice-Mayor Lea noted that inasmuch as he is called upon to attend various functions in the Mayor’s stead, he was not supportive of the removal of the Vice-Mayor’s stipend. There being no additional comments by the Council, the motion was seconded by Council Member Cutler and adopted, with Vice-Mayor Lea voting no.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary


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