We all deserve a raise. City workers, police and fireman, got their small increase but lost much of their overtime. Police patrols of our city streets have been curtailed. City middle management will not get raises because of the city budget deficit. We are in a time of deep financial crisis. The news in January promises to be even harsher. I think we will see some of the city’s largest developers selling off property like crazy in their rush for liquidity and to pay off debts. Many working class folks may lose their homes because of the mortgage crisis. This will disproportionably affect the African American and Latino communities. It is an insane time, and one that calls for frugality-substantive and symbolic.
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This is why it so hard to understand Mayor Dixon’s agreeing to take a salary increase, along with members of the Baltimore City Council. Sure, it is only 2.5% and sure the increases for our top city officials are less than a drop in the bucket of our total city budget. But is now the time? Couldn’t she behave like Howard County Executive Ken Ullman and some of our city council members, who have said "I am going to defer this or give to charity until we are solvent again."
I suppose it was the sheer arrogance of her anger at being questioned that bothered me the most. She deserves a raise, we all do, but a public official living in a land of deficits and furloughs should be a shining example of leadership and inspiration. She appears so petty and greedy at the moment. I think she is better than that. We all have kids, mortgages, college tuition but most of us don’t make $151,000 a year with a chauffeur and the perks of being a Mayor.
And, if as she claimed, she believes that this raise was fair and justified at this moment, why then did the Board of Estimates do everything they could to keep the sunlight off these raises? Not only did they vote on these on the day before Thanksgiving, but they also coded the raises as "salary adjustments" and instead of referring to the positions directly they called them "position job categories 88E, 887E, 83E and 81E", without any indication of what those referred to. As the Baltimore Sun pointed out, other personnel items on the agenda included job titles as well as job categories. And finally, there was no discusson at the pre-board meeting or the board meeting during which this vote took place. If Mayor Dixon believes that these raises are appropriate at this time, why did the Board of Estimates do everything they could to keep these raises from being noticed? It seems like they tried to sneak this one by us. Why?
It is not near as bad as the actions of Governor Blagojevich of Illinois but what they have in common is the hubris that political power seems to breed in some.
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