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Pay Raises for Me, but Not for Thee - January 2018The opening Town Board meeting this year appears to have been a doozie. The high school students who have to attend one town board and one school board meeting are getting their monies' worth. Sort of like the night in January, 2002, when I accused the school board of lying to the taxpayers. (If you weren't there and/or didn't follow the ensuing saga, they had.)
The issue of the day was pay raises for the deputy clerks. I will state at the outset that I do not know if these individuals deserve a pay raise or, even, if they should keep their jobs. My interest is in the whole process. As usual, the following axioms held: 1. If Madigan is on one side, McMurray and his echo, Kinney, will be on the other; 2. Jean Clabeaux will write a lengthy defense of her Nate; and 3. The critical issue(s) will not be addressed.
Focusing on 3. Quite frankly, it isn't any of our business what the pay is of these employees. Think of your own job. It isn't any one else's business what your employer is paying you. We can all agree with the late economist G. Warren Nutter's dictum: "The payment I make is always too high, and the payment I receive is always too low!" Envy and whining are too prevalent but are beside the point.
The real issue that needs to be examined is whether or not the pay scales for town positions are competitive. How does the total package of wages and benefits (plus the likelihood of layoff) compare to what employers in the private sector are paying for comparable levels of output? Anybody who has ever worked in both the public and private sectors knows how much greater the productivity is in the private sector. I remember when NYC went bankrupt in the early 1970s, the weekly wages for token collectors on the subway who might on occasion have to make change for a twenty-dollar bill was $210. At Chase Manhattan Bank tellers who dealt with enormous sums and could be fired earned $155. Was it any wonder NYC had fiscal issues?
The town needs to have an independent firm assess the competitiveness of our pay packages. It needs to do this for all departments, not just the clerk's. It may be that we are overpaying/underpaying for specific jobs. When I was a manager at Continental Bank another group was merged into ours and two young ladies reported to me. They were eager to do more and I was happy to give them more responsibility. One day, I asked HR for their job descriptions. I was shocked. They should have been paid at a level two grades higher. I was able to get them the salaries they earned: one of my finer moments. My point for this digression is that it may very well be that we are underpaying.
Another aspect that deserves serious scrutiny is whether the town should be doing the work itself. We don't collect the garbage; we contract out and if we are unhappy we can (pun intended) ashcan the provider. This typically is the most cost-effective way to deliver many services. We need to quit getting in snit over chump change, a top-to-bottom review of the whole operation is where the real savings are.
Politics - January 2018As I read Nathan McMurray's opinion of himself in the December 29, 2017 addition of the Island Dispatch regarding his political agenda, I realized we can all agree that politicians can be controlled by their donors. Nathan McMurray decided he wanted short term rentals on Grand Island to support a small group of his constituents. I do not know if they were his donors, but I see by his actions, he did not listen to what the majority of residents wanted.
The proof that residents were against short term rentals in residential zones was determined by the recent elections of Town Board Members. The population had the opportunity to vote for the candidates who were against short term rentals in residential zones. As a result, Jennifer Baney and Pete Marston were elected to the Town Board. Many people have addressed issues with Nathan McMurry in the past year and he has demonstrated he will not listen or change his opinion. A major issue was the West River Parkway. When the public forum was held at the high school to determine what the residents wanted, he was a no show. As I understand it, Nathan was holding his own meeting to promote what he wanted. Was that a stab in the back?
Nathan's publication is about what he thinks of himself and implies that Grand Island residents lack logic and common sense because he thinks we fear change. I have no problem with him promoting himself but I do not think we fear change if it benefits us all and it makes sense. Nathan claims he loves Grand Island but I do not believe he understands our history. Our zoning laws were established to protect our residential rights. By driving and stopping on the West River Parkway for years, the residents have enjoyed the beautiful view of the West River. What a great loss this will be when it is closed.
For The Record: McMurray's Inappropriate Actions Continue - January 2018In regards to raises that were approved at this week's Town Board Meeting: The Supervisor wrote the following on his Facebook Page: "Members of the board argued that we were in agreement about this motion prior to the meeting, but if that's the case, I was not part of those discussions. In fact, I have never met with this Town Board, since two of them were only appointed on Sunday. Now, if they had separate partisan meetings, that's for them to explain."
For the record what the Supervisor wrote is untrue. The entire new board met, prior to the regular meeting, in a Workshop meeting and first talked about the raises at 1:43 into the meeting (https://www.facebook.com/grandislandnews/videos/580215398984337/) at which time it was agreed that the discussion should be held during the Executive Session that followed the open meeting.
The board then met in Executive Session and talked in detail regarding the proposed pay raise. The board consulted with the town Lawyer in these discussions, contrary to what the Supervisor knowingly falsely claims on his Facebook page. The discussion was a substantial discussion that he denies ever occurred - a discussion that lasted over fifteen minutes. Much or most of what the Supervisor disclosed on his FB page is what was discussed in the Executive session - which is a concern for another discussion.
When the Supervisor states that a board member falsely claimed - "that we were in agreement prior to the meeting about this motion" - he must mean that we did not unanimously agree - which is true but is not a requirement. The only requirement to pass and approve the motion was a majority vote. There is no requirement that the board must agree with McMurray's position in order to pass.
Following the meeting McMurray reverted once again into his pre-November election behavior that destroyed all of his candidate's chances of winning. McMurray proceeded to throw the equivalent of a tantrum on Facebook. In one of those posts and comments - what was written was very hurtful towards a number of town employees and towards at least one member of the board (not me) and this highly politicized post remained up most of the day Wednesday on the politicized Grand Ideas for Grand Island Facebook page - a similar post was posted by the Supervisor on his Facebook page.
Regarding the approval process that was followed: The prior board, for over two years, agreed that raises would not be approved that were not budgeted. Department heads have been instructed to make certain such requests and associated detailed justifications are submitted prior to the budget process in the Fall for approval in the new year. This process was complied with fully and in fact one other raise was approved following this process during the meeting this week.
Most importantly I must conclude with the fact that the prior Board continually received compliments and positive feedback, without exception, about the professionalism and awesome customer service that our Clerk's office provides - they did not deserve what has transpired this week.
Our Clerk's office does more than most in the region and just this past week our town, thanks to our well organized Clerk's office, was one of the few who were able to support property owners with full compliance with the IRS tax prepayment requirements reducing their combined taxes by approximately $500,000 - excellent job!
Mike Madigan, Town Councilman