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It’s time to pay our mayor and Council members | Guest Column

It’s time to pay our mayor and Council members
On April 5, Columbia residents will vote on Proposition 1, a provision that amends the city charter by providing for a modest stipend to our City Council and mayor. (The current charter language allows for no pay.)
A diverse group of citizens worked to get this proposal on the ballot and are fully in support of its passage. What follows represents our reasons for supporting this matter.

Kee Groshong
Kee Groshong is a former MU administrator and co-chair of the Yes On Proposition 1 Committee.

What, precisely, is the proposal? It is comprised of three simple parts:
• Council members would be paid a stipend of $6,000 per year, and the mayor would get $9,000.
• Because all of us believe that we are underpaid, we wanted to ensure that future City Councils could not raise their own pay. Thus, raises are limited to the cost of living adjustments, by percentage, given to city employees for the prior three years. We do not want the stipend to ever get large enough to be the motivation for candidates to run for mayor or City Council.
• Because of a provision in the Missouri Constitution, this charter change would not go into effect until 2014. No one currently in office would benefit, unless he or she won another term.
Bob Roper
Bob Roper is a retired bank executive and Prop 1 Committee co-chair.

There are several reasons that cause us to collectively support the passage of Proposition 1.
First, we are a much bigger city than in 1949, when the charter was adopted. Back then, our population was about 30,000; now, it is more than 108,000.
Second, Columbia’s budget is more than $350 million per annum, and the general fund operating budget is about $76 million per annum.
Third, we have talked to a lot of Council members and mayors, past and present, and the consensus is that it takes about 20 hours a week to do the job, more for the mayor. It is now a big and time-consuming job.
Fourth, it is a hard job, over and above the time involvement. And don’t forget, part of the job is to endure criticism (fair and unfair) and personal attacks.
Fifth, governing Columbia is made more difficult because we own and operate our water and light utility, including our power plant. All of this has to be managed.
Sixth, Columbia is a very open, diverse and media-intensive city. That’s a good thing, in our view, but it makes governing more difficult because simple solutions, with agreement by all, are often elusive.
Seventh, Columbia is the fifth largest city in Missouri, but is the only city in the 10 largest cities that pays nothing to its Council and mayor. Sure, perfect comparisons are impossible, but this statistic looks telling to us.
Eighth, Columbia’s recent Visioning process, which was designed to be our community’s collective thinking on a host of issues, endorsed payment of a stipend to the City Council and mayor.
Ninth, we believe that people tend to be more accountable when they are compensated. We cannot prove it, but common sense supports the concept.
Tenth, we again cannot prove it, but once again common sense suggests that this modest inducement will cause more people to run for the City Council or mayor than otherwise would be the case. That would be a good thing.
Finally, and perhaps most important: It is tough enough to receive nothing for time-consuming public service, but it is particularly bad that out Council members and mayor currently lose money by serving. That is because they spend money out of their own pockets for non-reimbursable expenses such as child care, copy paper, tickets to dinners and other events, in-city travel and the like. This state of affairs is just plain wrong.
To summarize, we Columbians have been fortunate with respect to the quality of service we have enjoyed from our City Councils and mayors during the years. But times have changed, and it is now a huge job.
It is thus fundamentally unfair and inequitable for the mayor and Council to be unpaid and actually lose money doing this important, time-consuming and difficult work. Proposition 1 is designed to appropriately correct this state of affairs, and we urge our fellow Columbians to vote yes on the proposition.

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