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Where Oh Where is Davenport’s New City Administrator? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 10 July 2001 18:00
Where oh where is our new Davenport city administrator? It has been over three weeks since Mayor Phil Yerington announced his choice of Craig Malin for the position, amidst some dissention from players at DavenportOne and several of the aldermen, namely Aldermen Sherwood and McGivern. After some investigation, however, both aldermen appear to have had their concerns resolved and have indicated their intention to vote for approval of Mr. Malin.

So how come said formal approval has not been accomplished? What is holding the process up? Craig Malin received a unanimous recommendation from the search committee, which included four council members (Aldermen Moritz, Ahrens, Hean, and Nickolas) and whose purpose it was to find the best possible candidates for the position. Could this be a stall to give the dissenters time to organize their opposition to Mr. Malin and dissuade the aldermen from approving this candidate?

The approval of Craig Malin is not on this week’s Finance Committee agenda, where it probably should be if it were to be voted on during next week’s council meetings. This means at least another two weeks before it would be addressed. Meanwhile, could the window of opportunity close on Davenport to hire this highly qualified individual? Let’s hope not, but more importantly, the public must insist that this council do the work they were elected to do and close the deal.

But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt this time and believe, for the time being, that everything is copasetic and that we will have this council’s approval of a new city administrator by the end of the month.

You Get What You Pay For Revisited

The City of Davenport desperately needs committed citizens to run for the elected offices of mayor and aldermen for the upcoming term beginning January 2002 and beyond. Mayor Phil Yerington has decided not to run for re-election because he can’t afford to. The pay scale for Davenport’s elected body is woefully inadequate to financially support a full-time mayor, which is what our mayor is in reality, although on paper the position is considered to be part-time. This holds true for the aldermen as well, who currently make a paltry $11,500 for their time and energy. All those in these 11 positions each put in well over 20 hours a week on average on city business and it is ludicrous to think that part-time compensation is fair or reasonable for what turns out for most to be a full-time commitment of time and resources. That said, I repeat, you get what you pay for!

The city council is currently considering a raise in pay for both the mayor and the aldermen, which is a graduated increase over time. The last raise given to aldermen was in 1996 for an increase of $400 per year each. Prior to that, the council had not had even a cost-of- living raise since 1982. However, when Mayor Yerington proposed raises for the council, he was met with no small measure of opposition from the aldermen. The rationale behind the lack of support is fuzzy at best. Aldermen Ahrens claims that he in all good conscience cannot support pay increases for the council when the city is facing a deficit of $500,000 next year. He, along with Alderman McGivern (who also voiced major concern over the raises), have no problem supporting the city purchasing a vacant retail store, or bailing the IMAX project out to the tune of $1.2 million, or throwing in an extra $30,000 in operating costs for the Davenport Museum of Art employee’s insurance benefits, or forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue by authorizing a TIF for Sentry Insurance, all for millions more than eleven well-deserved pay raises would amount to.

Alderman McGivern proposed a civilian commission to oversee the authorization of any future pay raises for the council, with various time limits, etc., thereby taking a very simple concept and mucking it up into some complex, sliding scale formula in which all kinds of subjective abuse could occur. Mayor Yerington suggested a flat pay raise to $20,000 for the aldermen and $50,000 for the mayor. Alderman McGivern countered with some sliding-scale amount not to begin until 2002 and finish in 2003 at $15,000 for the aldermen and $45,000 for the mayor. These amounts simply don’t cut it. The mayor of a city of 100,000 deserves a living wage that reflects the responsibility that comes with the position, as do the aldermen. At least at $20,000, middle-income citizens could justify getting involved in such civic service. In fact, throw in the approximate $9,000 worth of insurance into the deal, and you actually have some incentive for individuals to participate.

The mere fact that several councilmen, including Aldermen Caldwell (whose lack of support more resembles sour grapes than it does rational fiscal policy), oppose their own pay raises reeks of political posturing. Every single one of these aldermen knows the time commitment involved and to oppose compensation that is fair and reasonable only emphasizes their politicizing a legitimate issue. It is an election year and they don’t want the competition.

I can somewhat understand Alderman McGivern’s personal discomfort at voting for an increase in pay for himself, but I wonder if the same discomfort is present when he considers a pay raise for himself through his own business. Each alderman must ask him/herself the objective questions: Am I worth it? Do I deserve it? Do I put in the hours necessary to do the job? Does my family sacrifice for me to participate? Do I give up precious personal leisure time to be involved? Do I experience lost opportunities for income elsewhere because of my commitment to the position here? The answer to all of these questions is undoubtedly yes for most of the aldermen.

Once the fundamental issue of paying a fair and reasonable wage for time and resources is settled, voters can judge for themselves the merit of each individual’s participation. Voters can then impose subjective questions such as: Does the alderman adequately represent the people over special interest groups? Has the council member remained faithful to those promises he/she campaigned on and for which he/she was elected? Does the alderman listen with an open mind to all concerns and respond accordingly? Does the councilman have the integrity to resist being unduly influenced by special interests over those of the general public? If most of this current council were judged by these standards, then raises would not be the issue, but replacement certainly would.
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