The best part of Scott Goldstein's Dallas Morning News piece about the Charter Review Commission's proposal to hike Dallas City Council salaries by 32 percent, to $49,530, comes at the very end:
"Fifty-thousand dollars a year, that's not bad," said [former City Attorney Tom] Perkins, whose city salary was $258,343 when he retired last year. "Regardless of whether it's a full-time job or not, council members work hard. I think they're committed to their communities and to their constituents."
Perkins' salary, in other words, would be merely five times as high as his 14 titular bosses, as opposed to the sixfold salary advantage he had when he stepped down.
No one's suggesting that council members make $250,000 per year, though some, like D's Eric Celeste, think six figures would be fair.
The logic goes like this. Being on the Dallas City Council (and we mean actually being an effective and responsive public servant, not just phoning it in) is a complex, demanding, important, and full-time job. These are the people, after all, most responsible for shaping the city.
The current salary of $37,500, the argument goes, is far too low to attract the best and brightest who, however strong their sense of civic duty, have lives to lead and families to support. Those who wind up running tend have to be either independently wealthy, have a job flexible enough to be squeezed into a demanding council schedule, or be willing to engage in ethically shady side dealings with people with business before the council.
A 20 percent increase won't fundamentally change that dynamic, but that's what the Charter Review Commission, a 16-member body convened once every decade to tweak Dallas' basic governing structure, thinks it can get past voters. And even that won't pass without some controversy.
Here's Dallas PD homicide detective Scott Sayers on Twitter this morning:
@gordonkeith Dallas city council now makes more than a starting rookie Police officer.
— Scott Sayers (@DpdSayers) April 23, 2014
Not to pick on Sayers -- I just happen to be following him on Twitter -- but is the starting salary of a rookie cop ($43,000), or a teacher ($46,000 in DISD), or [insert underpaid public servant here] really the right benchmark? Cops and teachers do yeoman's work and are probably underpaid, but the City Council sets policy that affects everyone in Dallas. They should be paid accordingly.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.