The year was 1958 and I eagerly anticipated my 21st birthday. A few years earlier I looked forward to turning 18 and registering with the Selective Service Board. Now I was anxious to register to vote!
Life in a small town has many benefits, not the least of which is the ease of access to public officials. I parked in front of the court house and located the registrar's office. There, after completing the necessary forms, the gentleman asked me THE question – did I wish to register as a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent?
Although it has been almost 50 years, I remember our discussion vividly. Being young and quite naive on political matters, I asked, “What's the difference?” The response was classic and went something like this: “Well, the Republicans are for the rich man, the Democrats are for the poor man and the Independents can't vote in the primary.”
At the time, my wage was about $1 per hour, so I definitely did not think of myself as rich. I registered as a Democrat.
Undeserved salary boost
Sitting in the audience at a recent City Council meeting – the one where neighborhood residents marched on City Hall to request that something be done about crime and the revolving-door criminal justice system – I reflected on what the registrar in Cumberland County had said. I thought about it again when I read that our City Council members, many of whom were visibly annoyed with the citizens pointing out their failures in addressing crime, voted themselves a 27-percent increase in salary. When was the last time YOU received a 27-percent increase in your paycheck?
To better understand this travesty, it helps to put things in perspective. First, the City Council hires the city manager. Then, to reward them for their “good judgment” in selecting him, the city manager recommends a huge increase in the salary of City Council members. I suspect that the next act in this circus will be the City Council voting the city manager a performance bonus.
By any reasonable standard, our current crop of public officials has failed miserably. Their most basic duty is to ensure the safety and tranquility of life in the community. They earn an F-minus. Next would be the construction and maintenance of streets and roads. Anyone who drives in the city knows how miserably they have failed here. Not only are the roads full of potholes that play havoc with your car's front-end alignment, many of them are too narrow to allow the proper flow of traffic. Another F on their report card.
Does anybody, besides our City Council members, believe that the performance of city government is deserving of a raise any type of raise, much less one that amounts to 27 percent?!
What about your boss?
What do you think are the odds of your boss calling you in for your annual performance review and telling you, “Well, John, you have done a miserable job this past year; you failed at all of your assignments and you were late with your reports. Not only that, but you were over budget in every category. But, all things considered, I am not going to fire you. In fact, I am going to give you a big raise, pay you full-time wages for a part-time job, and give you a huge technology allowance! On top of that, I'm now going to give you a $4,000 per year automobile allowance.”
Tell me, do you see that happening in the business world where most of us spend far too much time? Can you imagine this happening?
So, it was that conversation with the registrar in Fayetteville all those many years ago that came vividly to my mind, “Republicans are for the rich man, Democrats are for the poor man.” Whatever happened to the party that once was so proud of fighting for the little man, the “poor man,” the average working taxpayer? Where did that party go?
And did you notice that the majority of the Democrats on City Council voted for the budget that included the salary increase while the majority of the Republicans did not? Perhaps we should tell our City Council that we want to pay them what they are worth – they can make out their checks to “Charlotte Taxpayers” and leave them at the door as they exit.