What do we get for the money?

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

We're not opposed to the Baker County Compensation Board's proposal to make Commissioner Mark Bennett's position half-time instead of the current quarter-time, and to boost his annual salary from $16,000 to $32,000.

But we expect to see specific examples of how the taxpayers will benefit from the extra outlay of cash.

Bennett and Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr. have laid out a compelling case for the change.

In particular, they point out that commissioners need to understand the complex relationships among state and federal agencies that have a direct effect on Baker County's economy and its residents.

The federal government, after all, manages almost exactly half of Baker County's 2 million acres.

Warner said he expects Bennett would maintain regular office hours at the Courthouse and spend at least two and a half days per week there.

That, too, makes sense.

Still and all, the county has managed to operate with admirable efficiency under the current system, with the commission chairman a full-time position and the two other commissioners officially as quarter-time.

Moreover, Bill Harvey, who defeated Warner in the May 20 primary, is in line to take the chairman's position in January.

Whether adding to Bennett's hours and salaries remains the preferred strategy once Harvey is running the county will, of course, be determined later.

In the meantime, though, we expect that Warner and Bennett will be able to give their constituents detailed descriptions about how Bennett's additional hours translate into more effective representation for the county.

Based on Bennett's track record - which is the main reason we endorsed him in the May 20 primary, where he prevailed over Dick Fleming and Gene Stackle - we doubt this will be a difficult task.

But when you double an official's salary - any official's salary - it's hardly an imposition to require that you show the people footing the bill what they're getting for their dollars.

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The Baker City Herald
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