Rob Douglas: Routt County’s April fools
April 3, 2009
Steamboat Springs — On Wednesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners demonstrated their brand of April Fools’ Day humor by cutting all county employees’ pay 10 percent.
What? You don’t think that’s funny?
Oops. I forgot the punch line.
Commissioners Doug Monger, Nancy Stahoviak and Diane Mitsch Bush, along with every other elected county official, legally are exempt from the cuts because – drum roll, please – our elected representatives in the state Legislature protected themselves, along with all elected officials, from the types of pay cuts you are in danger of every day.
Isn’t that a thigh slapper of a belly laugher?
What? Those aren’t tears of laughter? They’re tears of anguish?
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Pay cuts aren’t funny. And the way the political class protects itself is not amusing either. It’s pathetic.
With their decision, the county commissioners – with the notable exception of Mitsch Bush – exemplify the lack of political leadership that Americans are sickened by.
Contrary to their elected counterparts, Mitsch Bush and Routt County Treasurer Jeanne Whiddon illustrate what leadership at a time of hardship looks like. On Wednesday, the duo proved leadership means leading by example, not whining about how little you make to those you supervise and those who elected you.
Setting the bar for elected officials, Mitsch Bush and Whiddon decided to donate 10 percent of their salaries to a community service agency funded by the county in exchange for a matching reduction in county funding for that agency. According to the Steamboat Today, Whiddon “didn’t think she could face her employees without participating in the pain with them.”
On the other hand, Commissioner Stahoviak used Wednesday’s meeting – announced with the minimum legal requirement thereby making it difficult for working folks to attend the midafternoon charade – to bemoan how little she gets paid.
According to the Steamboat Today, “Stahoviak noted that while county employees have enjoyed annual pay increases between 6 and 10 percent, the Legislature has only raised her pay twice since 1993, for an average of 3 percent a year. It also was pointed out that the commissioners, at $58,500 a year, make significantly less than their department heads. Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper, for example, earns $109,744 a year.”
Well, cry me a river.
Memo to elected officials:
– Leaders don’t whine about their pay while others in the public and private sectors are struggling to keep their jobs or save their businesses.
– Leaders don’t bemoan their statutorily protected pay to those who aren’t equally protected. If you’re going to complain, do so to the statutorily protected state Legislature in Denver. Maybe they care. We don’t.
– If you don’t like your pay, resign and work in the private sector where a 10 percent pay cut this year would feel like a Roman holiday to most Americans.
– If you’re going to gripe about your pay being less than a government employee you oversee, resign and apply for that position – if you’re qualified.
Still, Stahoviak’s caterwauling might be a good thing. She may be correct that the commissioners pay is inappropriate.
If $58,500 is too puny for the county commissioners and some of them feel entitled to preclude themselves from the cut they imposed on county employees, perhaps voters should consider whether we really need full-time commissioners.
After all, the city of Steamboat Springs is governed by a part-time council with direct responsibility for more in government operations than the commissioners have – while making far less than the commissioners do.
Although it doesn’t amount to much because their pay is miniscule, it’s also worth noting the council took the same 10 percent pay cut city employees did. And talk about leadership, I have it on good authority that Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord has been seen wielding a toilet brush and cleaning bathrooms since the budget cuts were enacted and city employees were expected to clean their own facilities.
DuBord may not be an elected official, but she knows how to lead.
So, perhaps Stahoviak and all other elected officials who feel inclined to hide behind statutory pay protections should follow Mitsch Bush’s and Whiddon’s example and donate 10 percent of their pay in order to help save a county employee’s job.
And try cleaning a few county toilets while you’re at it. Maybe then we’ll think you’re leaders.
Rob Douglas can be contacted at Rob.Douglas@comcast.net