A Better Fix Than Term Limits
You’ll never catch the cat if you bark up the wrong tree. This even applies to term limits for elected office.
The flavor of the comments by the Charter Review Commissioners is that they favor more emphasis on “citizen” and less emphasis on “professional” elected officeholders in Pierce County. The proposed solution is to limit public officeholders to no more than 12 or 16 years of total elected office during their lifetime. This will NOT catch that particular cat.
As long as a high profile, good paying job exists with lots of benefits, there will be no end to the status seekers and money hungry running for public office. If a generous retirement system exists, then all of these “pros” will help each other between “elected” employments by appointment to various lucrative positions while they campaign for the next election.
The only solution to discourage professional officeholders and to promote “concerned citizen” officeholders would be to remove the monetary incentives. Eliminate the retirement system. Drastically reduce the pay. Change the Council from full time to half time.
You would expect that State Representatives (a higher level of government) would receive more pay than a County Councilman. Both are Legislators. Both perform the similar functions. Be ready for a surprise.
Your County Councilman receives a salary of $79,076. He receives another $3,240 for mileage for vehicle use. He also receives another $113,940 to spend on assistant(s) and other “office” expenses not otherwise provided by the overall Council administrative budget.
Your State Representative receives a salary of $35,254. He also receives a “per diem” of $90 per day for each day the Legislature is in session (60 days in even years, 105 days in odd years). He receives mileage at 44 ½ cents per mile only when the Legislature is not in session, usually to travel to/from his home District on official business. He has to provide his own office and assistant from a monthly budget of $650.
A bit of a pay discrepancy? You betcha. The money seekers go to Pierce County. The civic minded go to Olympia. Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe that we currently have some outstanding Councilmen. I’m just pointing out that our current pay and benefit system provides a high motivation to keep the same individuals in County government for their entire working career.
If the Commissioners truly desire to promote citizen involvement instead of professional elected officials, then they should be barking up the pay and benefits tree, not the term limit tree.
Rick Sorrels 11 March 2006