Last night's Troutdale budget committee meeting was filled with heated, emotional rhetoric when the discussion turned to the mayor's stipend of $6000 per year.
There were two schools of thought:
1) The mayor is the "heart and soul of the community" and $6000 per year was a pittance when it comes to compensating the mayor for his "Sacrifice". The mayor should not lose money by being mayor.
2) Nearly all mayoral and city council positions throughout Oregon are volunteer, which means UNPAID. Most cities including Troutdale reimburse city councilors and their mayors for mileage, meals, long distance, fax lines, etc. while conducting city business. But nearly all cities don't pay mayors or city councilors for their time. And all candidates running for office, including Troutdale's mayor, are aware of this when they run for office.
I subscribe to school of thought number 2.
The heart and soul of Troutdale is most certainly not the mayor. The heart and soul of Troutdale consists of our citizens who are doing their best to make a living, raise their families, run a business, and basically enjoy life in spite of the taxes and other bureaucratic demands placed upon them by their city, county and state governments.
I heard the concept that "government is the heart and soul of the community" at November's Oregon League of Cities Conference too. What a bunch of horse hockey.
People who worship the mayor or any other government official or entity have it backwards.
What's the big deal about $6000 for the mayor, you might ask. City staff turned down Troutdale Police Chief Nelson's request for 2 additional police officers - $150,000 per year. The Chief made a very good case for the additional officers.
Last night, I requested that city staff find a way to fund at least one, if not both extra positions. The majority of the budget committee agreed with me. And during a short recess, city staff found a way to fund one extra officer.
One down. Now city staff will be coming to us tonight with options to fund the second position. The only way to do this in a balanced budget is to cut other budget items. Like the mayor's stipend. The budget committee will be making final decisions on the entire budget tonight.
We only have so much money. So we have to prioritize. The number one priority of a city is to provide public safety for its citizens: police and fire protection. Things like a mayor's stipend, even if considered appropriate, are far down the list.
So let's not spend money to worship our mayor. Let's spend it to protect our citizens, who are the true heart and soul of Troutdale