Saturday, November 19, 2005

Doing less for more

The Flier has a good editorial about the council pay raises, which I've mentioned before here and here. The editorial board at the paper (do they even have a "board" or is it just one or two people?) agrees that the council's pay should be increased but also that their duties--specifically those related to regulating things like zoning and liquor--should be transferred to political appointees.

Of course, the amount of money at stake here is but a drop in a $1 billion budget bucket, and we would agree some kind of raise is in order.

But the practical effect of the current legislation would be to encourage potential career politicians by allowing them to devote most of their waking hours to the county's business.

...While many - including this newspaper and some former council members - have for years called for the council to divest itself of these duties, it continues to exercise them.

It shouldn't fall to the taxpayer to support political ambitions, and the writers of the county charter never intended for people to quit their day jobs to be full-time members of the County Council.

Let's implement regular, reasonable raises for council members, but let's also make the workload reasonable for the citizen legislator, who will ultimately serve the county better than those intent on higher office.

First, in one word I can say why it is important to keep council members on the zoning board: accountability. The county already has a planning board, which is appointed by politicians and deals with many of the minor zoning and development issues so the zoning board does not have to. Instead, the zoning board is called upon to approve or deny several important, politically-sensitive things--like the General Plan--that I believe should only fall under the purview of elected officials. Removing accountability from these major decisions is highly undemocratic and should not be done to preserve some vague, antiquated notion of citizen-legislator.

The insistence on citizen legislators strikes me as unnecessary, as well. What's more important is that politicians serve the interests of their constituents. If they don't, they certainly won't be looking at long, successful political careers. Absent an expressed rationale--aside from the fact that the writers of the county's charter thought it was best, as if these folks were infinitely wiser than we are today--I don't know why the Flier is so strongly opposed to someone devoting all of their time to the business of the county. If one has higher political aspirations but fails as a councilmember, could he really expect to achieve success as a politician?

No comments: