It’s called public “service” for a reason

How completely silly. Lakeland city commissioners vote themselves a pay raise, effective immediately, and pretend it is about attracting working citizens to public service and paying for the very hard work they say is required of them.

Commissioner Selvage and Commission Troller voted against the raise, but will take it anyway. Which, by the way, is not required of them.

None promised to work harder or give the city more of their time.

$29,000 is not enough to allow someone who works for someone else to stop working, which would put that person in the same category as the “well-to-do or retired”, but without the financial independence. And if that worker keeps working for someone else, the citizens will not have his or her full attention or effort and neither will the boss.

This relatively small issue can be evaluated as a model for the commission’s priorities and illustrate its failure to truly serve the public. A notable exception is Mayor Wiggs, who proposed perfectly workable strategies to improve productivity and reduce expenses during the budget planning process in 2014. He was completely ignored.

First, the raise should not apply to any sitting commissioner.

Secondly, the funding for it should come from budget savings – perhaps achieved through improved productivity and best practices – and those savings should be at least five times the cost of the raises. If the commission can’t find a way to inspire the city manager to find such savings then neither they nor he is doing the job they want more money to do.

Advocates of the “strong mayor” form of government tell us that it offers a better way to hold city leadership accountable because citizens can vote a non-performer out of office. Of course, that can only happen once, and only at the end of the office-holder’s first term. The current form – a commission-manager style – actually allows for the removal of a non-performing city manager whenever the commission deems it necessary. The problem is that this commission is focused on its pay instead of its job, and is ignoring real opportunities to reduce the cost of government, provide raises to deserving employees, improve city services, maintain the tax rate, and move Lakeland into a position of leadership and innovation instead of “average”.

The Ledger’s editorial on the subject appears here