It's not a new story. Tales of myopic politicians thwarting the public will in service to self-interests are as old as government itself.
It’s not a new story. Tales of myopic politicians thwarting the public will in service to self-interests are as old as government itself.
Those familiar with antiquity may recall the trials of famed Greek orator, Demosthenes, who narrowly averted being cheated out of his inheritance by disloyal guardians. Only through cunning and practiced oration did he secure that which was rightfully his. We still see passionate public servants plead their cases upon the public square.
Those in attendance last Thursday evening saw two memorable orations delivered in the Pine Bluff City Council chambers. LaRon Edwards, an engineer with the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department, and David Ellington, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, both urged the council to heed the will of the people regarding promised raises for public safety.
They did so again this Monday with the media after the council put off a vote on said raises. As readers may recall, certain members of the Pine Bluff city council and the Mayor’s office think they know better than those who they represent. Even though the public approved a sales tax to be used for enhanced public safety — like hogs to a full trough, the city council now intends to redistribute the revenue according to their own flawed schemes.
As reported in the Commercial, two different reallocations have been proposed. Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. supports a 4.1 percent raise for the majority of full-time city employees; an 8 percent raise for police sergeants and lieutenants; and a 5.5 percent raise for minimum wage employees. In contrast, Alderman Thelma Walker and Alderman Irene Holcomb prefer a flat, $1,800 raise across the board for all city employees.
Both plans would also apply to the salaries of elected officials. Doing what politicians often do, both sides have argued these proposals meet the letter of the law. Maybe… but they certainly evade the spirit of it. Our firefighters and police officers work under some of the most demanding conditions in the entire nation. They are also some of the most underpaid relative to those risks.
Accordingly, it defies reason as to why the council and mayor think it’s appropriate to take money the public committed otherwise so that they themselves could benefit directly. Yes, that’s correct: As it stands, these nine people — some of whom have stood watch over our city’s mass exodus of population, greatest period of economic decline and highest crime spike in history — are poised to vote themselves a pay raise. Employing another trope from antiquity, it’s as if Nero expected the people to plate his fiddle in gold.
If this council has learned nothing else, it should take a lesson from Congress. Whenever Congress votes itself a pay raise, the raise cannot take effect until after the next Congress is seated. That way the people have an opportunity to vote as to the deservedness of said raise. That rule should also be law here in the city of progress. A lot of people like to talk about running government like a business. Our present panel of leaders seems to have whole-heartedly embraced that philosophy. Unfortunately, the businesses they’ve modeled are Wall Street banks.
The present administration has run the ship of state fully aground. Yet, they’re on the verge of voting themselves a prize for navigation.
The people of this city deserve far better.