Birmingham City Council Should Reduce or Rescind Proposed Increase in Compensation

Hollis Wormsby As we struggled to craft a budget for operating our fair City, our City Council told nonprofits that have served the community for decades that we are sorry we can no longer fund you or the service you provide. We hope you understand, we are doing this because we all must sacrifice for the City. When the Council proposed huge cost increases in retiree health care costs and the retirees said that these cost increases would be burdensome, the Council said the same thing again. “We hope you understand, we are doing this because we all must sacrifice for the City.” When citizens have asked for more improvements and better police protection in our neighborhoods, the Council said the same thing again. “We hope you understand it, we are doing this because we all must sacrifice for the City and live within our means.” Yet when it came to their own compensation and the compensation of future councils that will most likely include most of our current members, this same council seemed to say, “We know the financial constraints we said were important when reviewing benefits for others, but we will not apply those constraints to anything that benefits us.” And after that they gave themselves an immediate 56 percent raise, with another 44 percent raise slated to kick in with the next council elections in two years.
While I have great respect for our Council as individuals who I believe truly want to move this City forward, I think awarding themselves a raise at a time when so many of those they represent are struggling just to hold on to what they have, is selfish and in some ways an insult to those of us who elected them. What has changed since the current group took office that created this driving need to so drastically increase their own compensation, and if they can understand and choose to fund their own needs to the tune of a 100 percent pay increase over two years, how can this same group author budgets with no pay increase for the other folks that work for the City. If this group feels that increasing their own pay should be such a priority, how do they then turn around and tell everyone else to hold on for better times.
I sincerely hope that the Council will re-consider this proposed increase in compensation. How do you tell a Police Officer or a Firefighter you have no funding to increase their pay for work that puts their lives at risk on behalf of the citizens, but that you just found funding to give the Council a 100 percent raise?  How do you tell Neighborhood leaders who have sought funding to fix deteriorating streets, establish programs for our kids, in short funding to hold the City together, that the funding doesn’t exist to fight for these priorities and yet still propose a 100 percent raise for yourselves?
Some of you on the Council are my friends and I appreciate your friendship. And as a friend I would tell you that in every discussion I have been in on this issue the public was upset at the idea of the magnitude of the raise, given other priorities that have been told to be willing to sacrifice on behalf of what is the greater good for the City. I honestly believe that in the spirit of moving this City forward and in the spirit of fairness, the Council should reduce or rescind the proposed increases in compensation.
Or at least that’s the way I see it.

(Do you have a question or comment on this column?  Look me up on Facebook/HollisWormsby or email me at hjwormsby@aol.com.)