Monday, July 30, 2018

Follow the Money, Swallow Your Pride

From the Overpriced and Underperforming Department: Our three Benton County Commissioners have just gotten a 2% raise. Yes indeed, because they weren't being overpaid quite enough, apparently. You can read all the details here.

Think about this: The primary duty of the County Commissioners is to help create and approve the budget. It's the budget that funds and drives everything Benton County does. Currently, Benton County does their budget every two years. That means the County Commissioners key responsibility only comes before them every other year.

Ah, but they get paid for every year, of course. Even prior to this pay raise, collectively the commissioners get paid nearly $300,000 every year. But, as noted above, they only have to do the budget every other year.

And think about this: Long-term County Commissioner Annabelle Jaramillo will have been paid close to $2,000,000 - that's two million dollars - over the course of her five terms. In my opinion, that's both too much, and just too long for one person to be holding that seat.

Holding a public office like County Commissioner should be public service. That should be the focus. And, yes, I believe that people do need to be paid for doing that job. (It's crazy that, for instance, Corvallis City Councilmembers are not paid anything.) But it should not be a job that makes you rich. It should not be a job that rewards people with ever higher salaries simply for sitting there for year after year and term after term.

I also think it's outrageous that these three have just gotten a 2% raise, given that the Commissioners just got a 5.65% raise in 2015, which immediately followed a raise of 6% in 2014! Think about that: Our County Commissioners essentially had their salaries raised 15% in the last four years.

Have we gotten our money's worth from them? Haven't they presided over the (sadly appropriate) growth in income inequality here? Haven't they also just recently (also sadly appropriate) tried to pull their funding from the winter weather homeless shelter? Haven't they also allowed a brutal and crushing housing crisis to grow and fester? Haven't they ignored the wishes of their own constituents and voted to join into the timber industry-led lawsuit against the state of Oregon? And couldn't that same lawsuit potentially bankrupt the state?

And on and on and on. Big money rules, and everything else is for fools, apparently. For too long being a Benton County Commissioner has meant that you just follow the money, and swallow your pride.

No more!

When I am elected, I will be a vocal advocate for cutting those salaries in half. Doing so would free up enough money to hire another staff member or two - staff members who could actually perform vital duties that would serve the public. We need more public service, and less service of Commissioner's bank accounts. If our commissioners can't struggle along on just $43-45,000 a year, well gee, that might just give them some valuable insights into how other members of the community are also struggling.

I would also propose tying any raises or changes in salary to the median income in Benton County. If the median income goes up, maybe - maybe - the County Commissioners would be eligible for a raise. That might give them some motivation to, you know, actually care about what goes on in the county that (over)pays them.

This is shameful, folks, and these three are shameless if they accept those raises. It's that simple. Too many people are struggling here, and our County Commissioners currently have no skin in the game at all. They are checked out and overpaid. And that all needs to change.

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