Delivered to 15,000 Plainfield "doorsteps" Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Officials' salaries: This ain't your grandfather's Plainfield

'Just and capable government'. It's right there above the City Hall
entrance. But what it means is a perpetual question.


Now that the Plainfield City Council has taken up two ordinances to change both the Mayor's and the Council's compensation, a conversation has begun in the community.

Some have taken to Facebook to object to the raises. Some suggest that because they don't like the Mayor's leadership, he shouldn't get a raise. Some are just mistrustful of  public officials in general and hostile toward paying them anything at all.

When these sorts of conversations get under way, I always remember St. Paul, who earned his living by a trade but was also quite insistent that those among whom he labored should chip in and help support him in his work.

If this were to be the case, only the very wealthy could afford to serve. Plainfield's founding officials held a view like this, along with a belief in small government and that there were classes of people who should run things and classes of people who should not. Is that the kind of Plainfield we would want today? I don't think so.

The current compensation amounts were set nearly twenty years ago, in the first administration of the late Al McWilliams. They were opposed with the same arguments as being offered today.
But if you wouldn't think of working without a raise for twenty years, why should elected officials?
One thing that is different is that most individuals don't get to set their compensation, while elected officials do. So, is the problem allowing them to  give themselves a raise or making sure that it is fair and reasonable?

Can you think of a better way to approach the topic than to  compare Plainfield with other communities?
A chart has been supplied along with the proposed ordinances (see here), showing a range of NJ communities and the compensation for their mayors and councilors. You should check it out carefully. After a comparison, ask yourself again if the Plainfield proposals seem out of line.
Are there outrageous examples of ripping off the taxpayer? Yes, indeed. Check out the $600,000 retainer for the Lakewood school board attorney if you want a real example of abuse (see more here).
Or take the salaries of the top NJEA officials, which have now come under scrutiny (see here). In 2015 (the latest year for which IRS figures are available), the top five NJEA officers earned an average of $764,000 -- while classroom teachers earned an average $70,000. Those are co.mpensation figures to be angry about.

But, when all is said and done, probably the most compelling fact is that governing Plainfield has become much more complex than in the "good old days".
State government, which determines much of what we must do and the ways in which things are funded, has become more complex and demanding.
Our mayor must be the biggest cheerleader and salesman for the Queen City in an atmosphere where every town is competing against every other town to lure developers, attract new businesses and boost local employment.
As for the Council, their workload has increased and become more complicated also. I still shudder at the memory of the Council president who used to show up and open the meeting by ripping the tape off his Council packed while presiding, viewing its contents for the very first time AT THE MEETING! Such attitudes no longer cut it.
So. all in all, I see no great objection to the proposed increases, and look forward to their adoption at the December 11 Council meeting.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.