Money, and national searches, don’t necessarily mean better people

There are two rebounding myths about local government currently in the news needing refutation.

Folks in Marana are thinking about paying council members more. And the largest school district in Arizona just hired another superintendent from out of town.

The argument for paying elected officials more is based on the totally fallacious concept that higher pay gets better people. Perennial Marana candidate David Morales claims no one ran against incumbents in prior Marana elections because of the paltry salary. Besides wondering how we got those incumbents originally, that concept is totally shattered by the simple observation that other elected positions with no pay at all, such as boards of school and fire districts, not only have no problem being filled but are often hotly contested. See “Oracle” for exhibit A.

Many jurisdictions pay very well — try the Chicago Board of Aldermen or the legislatures in states like California or Illinois. With bennies, those jobs often top six figures. That created any role models for good government the proponents can name? Higher pay doesn’t get better people. It often produces bigger slugs.

One item rarely mentioned is eligibility for a pension double that of ordinary government employees. Teachers and others not commissioned law enforcement accrue retirement benefits at 2 percent per year. Elected officials accrue at 4 percent. Both vest at five years. A two-term council member anywhere in Arizona paid $12,000 per year will receive $3,840 annually for life.

There are far more motivators than salary for public service. That’s good. I don’t want to be represented by somebody who needs the job. I want someone who believes in duty. If you aren’t willing to make sacrifices, I don’t want you determining which ones I’ll make. The recent highly acclaimed HBO series on John Adams shows us those who grasped that concept. To look upon the role of representative as simply another form of employment debases us as a nation.

The other myth is the “national search” process human resources types convinced local governments is the best way to fill a vacancy. It’s good for the bureaucrats it promotes, not so good for local governments.

Once promotion came from within or from a neighboring jurisdiction. To concede no one currently employed at TUSD (or any other large government) is capable of running defines administrative incompetence bordering malfeasance.

Supposedly the big search gets the “very best” person. One original motivation was reducing “cronyism” with elected officials often selecting their friends. In reality we have now empowered unelected officials to hire their friends. The cavalcade of overpaid gypsies that have helped make TUSD one of the worst-governed entities in the state further proves how poorly this works.

Imagine this. Third Army HQ, 1944. One of George Patton’s corps commanders is killed. He immediately turns the outfit over to a divisional commander from that corps or a neighboring one. Now imagine the HR people are empowered. They notify Patton they’re gathering a search committee composed of a colonel from the AG’s office, a state department diplomat, and a Brit Admiral. After searching for the very best candidates, they’ll forward him the short list for his choice. He’s told this process takes only a few months.

Many are critical of present Pima County CEO Chuck Huckelberry and Tucson City Manager Mike Hein. I often differ with their policies, but they’re both locals who can identify the Catalinas, pronounce “can-ya-da” and know who Father Kino was. Imagine the current Tucson Council and Board of Supervisors replacing them. Frightening? Note those elected officials are paid double and quadruple more respectively than the Marana Council.

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