Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Should Council and Commission Members Have Some Modest Perks?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 8:17 AM

will_work_for_food_3x.jpg

Among the more dismaying aspects of city and county budget deliberations in this austerity year has been the last-minute impulse on both the City Council and the Shelby County Commission to sacrifice such meager amenities as their own snack and travel funds.

We’re talking about modest $25,000-or-so annual outlays — chump change, equivalent to maybe a day’s worth of revenue lost from the sacrifice of sales tax revenue to one of those giant carpetbagging industries we entice away from some luckless locality elsewhere by throwing millions in public money at them and promising them, via the PILOT program (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes), that they won’t have to pay any taxes while they’re here.

Luckily, there was just enough self-regard left on both the Council and the Commission to defeat the mock-heroic hair-shirt proposals this year — by a single vote, in each case.

Consider the implications of sacrificing, say, the modest little sandwich-and-coke lunches provided for the County Commission on the every-other-Wednesday committee days, usually all-day affairs with minimal break time.

Having lunch together in the commission’s break room is one of the few occasions the members of that body have to remind themselves, away from the inevitable contention of the day’s disagreements, that they belong to a single unitary whole, Shelby County, and to rise above partisanship and other divisions.

For a brief moment before getting back to work, commissioners can discharge tension and animosity by discussing the day’s weather, the Weiner case, or whatever else floats t heir boat. Having been there once or twice, at the invitation of a member, I can attest to the fact that small talk is what they do at these little conclaves, not business.

Things might be otherwise if the members were forced to go out of the building and have their lunch — no doubt, in small partisan groups — in some private place away from public scrutiny, from whence, after this unnecessary extra hour or so, inconvenient to the public in attendance back at the county building, to return to the day’s agenda.

The same reasoning applies to the modest spreads provided for City Council members on similar occasions.

The Council did succeed Tuesday night in paring away a third of its travel budget — leaving in place all of $20,000 for the 13 members of that body to indulge in fact-finding expeditions elsewhere or travel to professional conferences or what-have-you. The average executive at one of our local PILOT-fed corporations might spend that much in two weeks’ worth of airport-hopping.

The point cannot be made often enough: Most members of both the Council and the Commission have already made substantial sacrifices in time, money, and energy just to be serving on those bodies. They should not feel compelled to make a show of denying themselves simple amenities, especially when these bare-bones amenities are of the sort that are routine in every other walk of life.

See also John Branston's "The Best and Worst of Budget Week."

Favorite

Comments (12)

Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • GOP Figure Bill Giannini Killed in Car Crash

      Accident occurred in Decatur County on I-40. Shelby County native was former chair of county Republican Party and Election Commission, was meditating on likely race for state Senate in 2018.
    • Mackler Out of Senate Race, Yields to Bredesen

      In bow to reality, new-face Democrat withdraws in favor of two-term former Governor, the party-stablishment favorite, will continue with political action committee.

Speaking of School Consolidation

ADVERTISEMENT

Readers also liked…

  • Cohen to Introduce Articles of Impeachment against Trump

    Ranking member of House Judiciary subcommittee, says, apropos Charlottesville and Trump's apparent defense of the white nationalist fomentors there: "There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen."
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • Another Big Shoe Drops with Lane's Entry in Sheriff's Race

    County Homeland Security director holds kickoff rally in Millington; considered major contender for GOP nomination.
    • Sep 13, 2017
  • Cohen Tells It!

    In which Memphis’ Democratic congressman Steve Cohen, addressing an apparent GOP effort to muddy the waters on the Russian inquiry, not only takes no crap but gives it back where it came from. This is worth watching from beginning to end -- even for those who might disagree on the politics of the matter.
    • Jul 26, 2017

Most Commented On

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation