Press Talk: Professor Brancaccio hits City Hall

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio, Columbian editor, spent his college years in a Swamp.

Welcome, class, to Professor Brancaccio’s lecture on what not to do if you ever get into politics. Let’s get started.

Don’t do stupid stuff.

OK, lecture over. Oh wait, you want a little more? OK. Let’s examine stupid stuff.

First, try not to do things that are unbecoming.

Now, for those who have been following my lectures, you’re probably thinking, “Here he goes again, yanking those pesky M&M boys’ chains.” And it’s true I have beaten up County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke. Of course, they deserve it. Why? Because they have twisted this county into such a shape that even Auntie Anne’s couldn’t recognize it.

But this lecture is not about them.

OK, then it must be about my favorite frowning state senator, Don Benton? This guy — thanks to the M&M boys — got himself a sweet $100,000-a-year county job as environmental services director.

Now, you’d think the county’s most famous freeluncher would always be smiling considering he got that county job even though he couldn’t tell the difference between point-source pollution and — well — a pretzel.

But no, this ain’t about him either.

This week, class, we’re taking a peek over at City Hall. What the heck is going on over there? No really, what’s going on there?

Well, our city’s public servants — emphasize the servant part — are serving themselves a bit too much, in my humble opinion.

• • •

Let’s begin this discussion with the recent pay raises for our mayor and councilors. It should be noted the city council doesn’t actually make its own pay decisions. Some type of, ah, objective commission was put in place to do that.

And this commission — you guessed it — said it felt most everyone on the council should get a raise.

Now, this commission concedes our elected officials already earn more than their counterparts at similarly sized cities. But, what the heck, the city’s finances are improving, so sweeten the pot.

Who … are … these … people?

Of course the city just raised taxes on residents which — I guess — might just be a factor in “improved finances.”

It’s bemusing, class, that when it’s convenient for public types to compare themselves to other public types, they trot that information out to support why they should get more. Like the city just did with some of its attorneys.

But when it’s inconvenient — like in the case of the mayor and city council — they simply dismiss it.

What the …

• • •

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OK, what else? Well, there’s this parking meter thing. Councilors are out there doing the people’s work and — heaven forbid — they have to pay for parking. Now, you’d think they’d want to relate to the rest of us common folks and put their quarter down.

Well, think again.

My buddy, Councilor Bart Hansen, feels they should get parking passes when on city business.

Huh?

Could someone in the class please explain to me why council work is more important than that of the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker?

I thought not. But, class, I am looking for volunteers to plug quarters into meters if you see a councilor sipping coffee while doing the peoples’ work.

• • •

So, class, how many of you know someone who has their very own parking space where they work? Thought so. Would you be surprised if the mayor — a man of the people — had this special privilege? Well, don’t be. There’s a spot just for him over at City Hall. A councilor spot as well.

• • •

Now, class, the elected folks over there at City Hall are good people. I know them. But I would suggest when they’re sitting in their fancy new City Hall, they sip from a Don’t Do Stupid Stuff mug once in a while to clear their heads. Be one of us. It will feel good. Sure, class, some might argue this is all chump change. Small stuff. But when you get away with small stuff, you begin to feel more comfortable about getting away with big stuff.

And before you realize it, you’re just like the M&M boys. And Benton.

Class dismissed.