Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Want to fix our political system? Start with election reform.

There has been plenty happening with primary election reform across the country.  Here in California we have improved our primary system but election reform is a state by state battle.  In  nutshell; partisan primaries make it too easy for a small special interest to gain too much control of the process.  By contrast a top two system makes it easier for coalitions to rise up and force the process to represent a larger portion of the electorate.  Below are some links that are worth a glance.  Most noteworthy is an op-ed by US Senator Charles Schumer on the topic.

Hmmm the good Senator and I actually agree about something.

New York Times
Charles Schumer: End Partisan Primaries, Save America

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer Says We Need to End Partisan Primaries

If Oregon goes top two that will be the entire West CoastCalifornia and Washington are already there.

Initiative to Adopt Top-Two Open Primary in Oregon Qualifies for Ballot 

The Las Cruces Sun-News
New Mexico independent challenges ballot access

Monday, July 21, 2014

BOS Raises. What plan would you support.

Before tomorrow's meeting in Tahoe where the BOS raises will be discussed it might be good to consider what one might approve in November.  Your humble blogger brought the topic up over coffee with a few Placer County voters and this plan met with everyone’s approval.

  • Supervisors should be paid the average wage of the average Placer County resident.  That should be around 52-54K. I am sure that there are numbers out there to be tapped into.  The number itself is not as important as the spirit of the formula.  In fact it might be a good idea for all elected officials compensation to be kept more in line with constituents.
  • The Supervisors should get a benefit package, the same package that the rank and file gets.  While we are on the topic maybe we need to have one package for all Placer County employees and the only difference from one position to the other be salary.  
  • It should also be acknowledged that some supervisors are more involved than others and a small stipend should be allowed per meeting attended other than board meetings.  However rules about what meetings would be allowed a stipend should be rigorously scrutinized.  A MAC meeting would qualify but a celebrity golf tournament would not.  Also the attendance would have to be personal "if you send your aide, you don't get paid".   

I would add no pre-programmed COLA’s to the list.  After 2008 it seemed to be the main sticking point foe all that I spoke with on the topic.  Everyone else has to come back and negotiate periodically the BOS should be no exception.  

Now it will be more interesting to watch the next meeting and see how far their formula is from from the coffee klatch formula.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

BOS Raises: The phone survey.

Friday evening we got a call from a survey worker.  The worker wanted to ask questions about different aspects of the Placer County Board of Supervisors compensation increase proposal.  There were many questions split between two general topics.  Since only a sampling are likely be surveyed it seemed prudent to write about it. 

Topic one was the largest and focused on what aspects of a proposal one might support.  Questions about salary formulas, benefit types and salary amounts.  When they ask about salary amount they start high and work their way down until you say yes.  The incremental drops are rather large so don’t be surprised if it drops from “seems a bit high” to “wow that makes me sound like a cheapskate”.

Topic two was what would be the best arguments and endorsements to win ones support.   I thought that we did a pretty good job of exposing absurd arguments in a previous post but there were all of those and many more asked about in these questions.  Multiple choice and a need for quantification keeps one from really giving an opinion to the questioner but none of those mentioned moved me to much more than a chuckle.  One that stood out was the argument that with higher salaries the BOS would not have to depend so much on staff as they would be able to work on the boards' work full time.  That argument is only true if some senior staffers are removed due to a reduced workload from the change and any supervisor accepting the raise would have to agree that it is the only job that they can have.   This is about the legitimacy of the argument and not a suggestion for either addendum to it be used. I support a reasonable raise for what I think they do now, not on something that may or may not actually happen in the future.  

Toward the end of the call questions were asked about the sway certain endorsements might hold.  The Placer County Republican Central Committee was mentioned but the Placer County Democratic Central Committee was not.  The League of Placer County Taxpayers was brought up but I am not sure if it was the old League dissolved by Wally Reemelin in 2011 which was the driving force behind the 30K ceiling back in 1992, or the League that Reemelin felt had high jacked that groups name and collected an FPPC fine in 2013.  A Sherriff’s Deputy organization as well as the League of Women Voters of Placer County were also asked about. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Placer isn't the only foothill county discussing BOS compensation

A hardworking bot popped this into the inbox today.  It appears that BOS compensation is a topic of discussion just across the river in Nevada County as well.  While reading the column bear in mind that Nevada is a county that has a population that is less than a third of Placers population.

Boardman: Believe it or not, the job of supervisor deserves a living wage

BOS Raises Absurd Arguments Abound

I wanted to get this done before tomorrow’s meeting so that it will not appear to be personal.  I know a couple of these board members and have huge respect for them.  Politics is a business with plenty of absurd arguments and this topic is no exception.  It is natural for people to gild the lily or even spin things a bit.  While absurd arguments abound there is only one question that really needs to be answered:  Is 30k per year adequate compensation?  That is not however where we are going with this discussion.  Below are pro and con arguments that were used from the last failed measure attempt to change county supervisor compensation.

Con:  It is a part time job.

I can’t speak directly for all of the BOS but I have watched my own 5th District Supe and she is very active, for her it is absolutely a full time job and she puts in long hours to do it.  The list of meetings that she attends to represent the county and reach out to constituents is very long.  While we are on the subject we should not count community events such as fund raisers etc.  Many community members not on a government payroll attend and work these functions without compensation; a supervisor should be no exception.  Even with this caveat people that call it a part time job probably have no idea what their supervisor does.

Pro:  I don’t care about this myself but it is for future boards.

It is hard to avoid being snarky at this argument but if that is true then I have an idea.  The ballot measure should be worded to take effect January 1st, 2020.  Then no current board member will enjoy the increase in compensation without their constituent’s approval.  It might also help to get it passed in November by quieting the naysayers that use past board positions as a reason.  Call me a cynic I am not thinking that I will see a measure with that wording come Election Day. 

Con: Your board does not deserve addition compensation because they voted to…..

I would expect that we will see plenty of this.  I remember it from the last time.  We cannot hold this board and board members not yet elected responsible for their insensitivity to whatever cause you hold dear.  This issue should be decided on what we expect them to do and what we feel that is worth.   We hold our elected officials accountable every four years, not before we might have even met them.  If you don’t like the vote on your issue then get out and find someone that you can support to run against them.

Pro: The Charter Committee unanimously voted to recommend…

While it is accurate one cannot make this point without also mentioning that the Charter Committee was appointed by the board and one of the voting members was a paid senior staffer that served at the pleasure of the Board.  It may be an accurate statement but it is a questionable argument at best. 

Pro: Lower salaries could affect the ability of Placer County to attract people of quality

I saved the most absurd for last and longest.  First let us consider well compensated elected bodies such as the California Legislature, need I say more?  We have counties and cities that paid their boards and councils far better that were recently on the verge of bankruptcy.  If we do things by comparison to our board there should be a statewide effort to reduce every politician in the state to 30K per year.  We have done very well for what we are willing to pay.  We have been paying 30K per year since 1992 and never once have I heard that we had to beat on doors in every village in the county looking for someone dumb enough to run.  In 2012 District 5 had five candidates running for that 30K a year job and at least three of them were qualified to do the job.  The same district in 2008 had three candidates and all were qualified.  In 2006 District 2 had a race that some accounts say the hard and soft money went over a million dollars.    We do not have to provide adequate compensation to get great talent but we should do it because it is the right thing to do.