By Brian Hughes
Published: May 4, 2012
In the 22 years I have resided in Squamish I have never felt compelled to comment publicly on the issue of compensation for the mayor and council.
However, the level of audacity displayed by four councillors on April 17, 2012 in voting a 30 per cent wage increase has prompted this response.
On January 1, 2012, approximately one month into your term, you received an approximate 10 per cent wage increase that was part of a remuneration package set by the previous council.
When you ran for elections, you knew fully well the level of compensation offered for this position.
Now, three and one-half months into your term, you feel you have earned and deserve a wage increase of 30 per cent.
Your sprint to the trough is unprecedented in both the level of the increase, as well as the economic times the town and its citizens are experiencing.
There is no cheque easier to write than the one drawn on someone else’s account, payable to oneself.
With the increase in the utilities assessment just coming due, coupled with the anticipated 7.5 per cent property tax increase on the horizon, this level of wage increase demonstrates the lack of sensitivity that members of this council feel for the taxpayer of Squamish.
This is a small town and it does not require full-time councillors. Some councillors claim they are spending 20-40 hours per week on council business. This claim sounds like a ready excuse to try and justify an unconscionable increase.
I have spoken with former mayors and councillors of Squamish, and they all agreed that it was the rare week when even 20 hours was required.
Fifteen hours was the average time per week that was required to fulfill the duties of the office.
There is also the concept that historically these positions have an aspect of “public service” attached to them. The positions are not supposed to become a person’s full time job.This public service aspect to the position incorporates some of the values of volunteerism.
No one is asking you to do this work for free, but given the economic times, this increase feels like cash grab by the four councillors who voted for the increase.
In conclusion, I think it would be unfair to criticize without suggesting some solutions.
Firstly, in the short term there should be a rescinding of the wage increase of 30 per cent.
In the long term I have two suggestions:
Appoint a citizen’s committee to make binding recommendations regarding the appropriate levels of compensation for Mayor and Council;
Secondly a vote on any increase to the mayor and council’s compensation will not become effective until the first day of a new Council’s mandate following a municipal election. This method ensures that the citizens can question council members on the rationale for any increase of wages. It also allows citizens to use their vote to remove any councillor who is voting him or herself an increase that is not in keeping with the reality of the times.
Put another way – politicians who feel the heat often see the light.
Edward R. Murrow said “a nation of sheep begets a government of wolves.”
Your actions in respect of this 30 per cent increase have awakened this sheep. This pack mentality with respect to the Mayor and councillors compensation must be stopped.
Squamish can’t afford now, or in the future, this type of clumsy effort by our elected officials to feather their nest at the expense of the taxpayer.
Council should be ashamed, and the four who voted in favour of the increase should be ashamed.
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