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Commissioner pay hikes and public theater

In response to a majority of Athens-Clarke County commission members voting themselves a pay raise I would submit the following comments: I along with many other voters opposed this raise for a number of reasons. I question whether folks who are financially unable to support themselves and their families are the best choice for administering millions of tax dollars in the same vein you would not expect someone in an entry level job to be able to step into the shoes of the company CEO, therefore increasing salaries for the purpose of attracting candidates who cannot manage their personal finances or provide for themselves or their families is not in the best interest of Athens taxpayers. Commissioners voting a pay raise for themselves while denying the same to county workers is not indicative of folks who understand the concept of "public service" and must be disheartening to county employees. As to increased time for conducting public business, I have the following observations: Having listened to M&C meetings for several years it has become apparent there is lack of understanding of how to conduct an effective meeting. Extensive speeches by members and extremely long meetings containing little substance look more like "make work" efforts than actual necessary discussion. Treating commission meetings as a political platform for free media exposure has also played a role dragging out meetings. The length and the frequency of meetings seems to have more to do with politics than effectively conducting county business. The economy of a college town is entirely different from that of other counties. Comparing Athens commission salaries to a county where the bulk of the adult residents work, own property and pay taxes to a county where one of the largest property owners and a significant number of the voters do not not pay property taxers is like comparing apples to oranges. I couldn't help but notice, despite county staff being paid and tasked with thoroughly evaluating issues before the commission, members feel compelled to rehash these issues ad nauseum and ignore staff recommendations as if nothing had been done. For commission members who don't have jobs or businesses to run this appears to be their opportunity to establish their relevance to the public through the use of free political theater. After all if you are not burdened with the day-to-day chore of earning a living as the rest of Athens has to contend with, you can waste hour after hour day after day. In addition consider the optics. Not one member of the Commission went without a paycheck throughout the extensive government shutdowns while many residents lost income jobs and businesses and are still struggling to recover and yet these commission members think this is the time to add an additional burden to Athens taxpayers for their personal benefit. Commission seats are part-time for a reason. Citizen representatives who have to live with the consequences of their spending policies and who face the same issues as the voters working and providing for their families are more sensitive to the actions they take. Commission members who don't have regular jobs, own property or have families to support have no "skin in the game." Commission seats were never meant to be a lifetime career of financial support. It's disheartening to see a sitting member of this commission publicly denigrate the country that has provided so many opportunities to so many people and who, in lieu of actual public debate using factual data, simply labels citizens in opposition to questionable public policies as fascists and worse. Donna Carter


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