So what's a mayor worth? How about a City Council member? Spare me the cynical humor; these are weighty civic questions currently under intense study.
Never mind that these people spend considerable time, effort and money (other people's money, but that's good training for public office) getting elected, then -- through surrogates -- whine that the job's too hard for what it pays.
Never mind that they appoint a bunch of their friends to a committee that discovers that the job's too hard for what it pays, and proposes paying them more.
Never mind that members of this friendly committee then raise a bunch of money (mainly from people who want to stay on the good side of the mayor and the council) for a campaign to convince the citizenry that the mayor and council should get paid more.
Never mind that the mayor and the council then appoint another friendly committee to decide just how much more money they should be paid.
Never mind any of this, because it's merely "process," you see, and thinking about it tends to engender cynicism, which is inappropriate because we have weighty civic matters to consider.
This friendly salary-setting committee will study the matter to death: There will be charts and graphs, meetings and discussions, expert testimony and citizen input. Probably a PowerPoint presentation and maybe even an outside consultant. Typical dog and pony show, you say? Don't be cynical.
Actually, the answer lies in plain sight, and is herewith offered in a spirit of civic involvement and municipal responsibility: Pay them more, but put them on the clock.
Pay 'em by the hour.
Seriously. Pay the mayor $25 per hour, which works out to a little over $50,000 per year, assuming a 40-hour week and no vacations. Council members get $15 per hour ($30K per year, same assumptions).
Pay 'em for council meetings, committee meetings, other official meetings (StanCOG for example, public workshops and the like).
No pay for trips to Sacramento or Washington, D.C. Not as long as we pay money to belong to the League of California Cities, which is supposed to lobby on our behalf.
No pay for travel to more exotic climes -- remember that in 2002, we paid for three city officials to fly to Germany (and back) to receive an urban landscaping award (over the objections, to be fair, of Janice Keating, Will O'Bryant and the departed Bill Conrad).
No pay for discretionary public appearances: civic group meetings, parades, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, etc. Self-promotion is its own reward.
Have we covered all the bases here? Surely not, but that's why we have friendly committees.
One final provision: If the mayor and the council wish to organize, join a union, and strike for higher wages, they will be permitted to do so.
Flint is a Modesto resident. E-mail him at email@example.com.