Monday, March 28, 2011
Editorial by Phil Goodstein
When the city faced a severe financial crisis in the l890s, councilman Martin Currigan called for cutting the salaries of elected officials as a means of showing that office holders were serious about retrenchment. In 1968, Currigan’s grandson, Mayor Thomas G. Currigan, resigned from office when voters refused to give him a raise. Far from appropriately saying good riddance to Currigan II, the political class reacted to his departure by removing from voters the power to determine pay raises for elected officials. It set up a mechanism entitling the mayor and members of council to almost automatic raises.
As compensation to members of city council has constantly soared over the past 40-plus years, the city legislature has more become a home for professional officeholders than a body composed of everyday citizens. Some council members have done virtually nothing but hold some public post or another for decades. At the most, they have alternated between “public service” and stints with politically charged non-profits that frequently work hand-in-glove with city hall.
Council members’ fear of actually having to scrounge for themselves has been seen in the way they have bitterly assailed term limits. It has even been more apparent in the way they have refused to make the most basic political gesture to the city’s current financial crisis by limiting their virtually automatic pay increase on their almost guaranteed re-election in May. Despite Washington’s claims that there is virtually no inflation while the Federal Reserve has seen to it that banks pay depositors minimal interest, the Thomas Currigan legacy calls for council to get one 6.6 percent pay hike over the next four years. Council has the ability to say no to this. It also has the power to refer the entire matter to the voters. It has done neither. On the contrary, members have insisted on the necessity of keeping the automatic pay raise in place. Even those making political gestures of postponing the pay raise have said nothing about letting the populace decide the issue. None is ready to follow Currigan’s precedent of leaving office if he/she does not like the salaries and numerous perquisites he/she receives.
Typical of the obscene defense of the salary hike are the views of mayoral candidate Michael Hancock who came to council from the non-profit sector. Without providing for high pay, he asserts, ordinary people will not be able to serve in office. This comes from a professional jobholder who fails to observe that council salaries are not those of the average area median income, but are geared to aspiring members of the elite. In other words, without high compensation, he would not have had the civic spirit and commitment to run for the city legislature.
Mentioning such is “negative” campaigning. This has been Hancock’s prime issue. Rather than attacking opponents and those responsible for current problems, he has vowed to run exclusively an uplifting campaign. In particular, this means not uncovering the filthy records of candidates such as Chris Romer who has the integrity of opposing the pay hike.
Doug Linkhart has also backed the pay raise while condemning attack ads. He is the favorite of self-avowed “Progressive Democrats” for mayor. This is a faction that constantly manages to fool itself about the likes of Federico Pena, Wellington Webb, and Barack Obama. Time after time, it has backed losers while endorsing whomever the Democrats put up. Even when it wins, it loses: its candidates invariably are part and parcel of the status quo. Instead of having any detailed understanding of the workings of the system and the nature of class, power, and the essence of capitalism. Progressive Democrats constantly delude themselves that with the right man (or better yet woman) in office, the textbook model of democracy will become a glowing reality.
Goody-goody liberals are still amazed that Barack Ohama lacks a backhone. He has never stood up to reaction. This is in tune with those who present themselves as so holy and righteous that they will not expose the dirty deeds of unscrupulous candidates and organizations seeking to get hold of the city government. Indeed, right at the time when the tumultuous events in Wisconsin show the urgent necessity of using any and all means to defend workers from reaction, the prime plank of Democratic goo-goos, led by the likes of Senator Mark Udall, is destroying the filibuster.
The Hancock position hints that he and his associates will emulate Obama: they will not assert themselves against the encrusted powers of 17th Street. On the contrary, in the words of the campaign slogan of Carol Boigon, the candidates vow they “mean business,” i.e., they are primarily seeking to show who can be most subservient to the dictates of corporate America. Only those with stars in their eyes, particularly the Linkhart camp, fail to grasp this obvious point. Their failure so allows schemers and scoundrels to worm their ways ever deeper into the commonweal since any condemnation of such nefarious forces is forbidden as “negative” campaigning. Seen in this light, the Hancock position is the filthiest campaign of all.
at 6:03 PM
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