Letter to the Editor for June 19, 2013

Written by Baker City Herald readers June 19, 2013 08:47 am

City should consider trimming pay for lack of performance

Mayor Richard Langrell isn’t alone in believing the city council, having already shown an interest in lowering personnel costs, posted a perplexing failure when it then approved an employee contract that included a pay raise.

City employees have enjoyed several years of hefty pay raises, all while one of the nation’s biggest downturns was forcing the rest of us to live on less. With two more contracts to negotiate, the council has set an unfortunate precedent.

Here’s a way to mitigate the problem, however: Every time a city employee tells someone that a particular issue or complaint can’t be addressed because “it’s not a high priority,” decrease everyone’s compensation by half a percent or so.

If you’ve dealt with the city much,  you’ve undoubtedly heard that refrain. Even Councilor Roger Coles recently remarked that he’s been told that about the enforcement of ordinances. I’ve been told that about business issues and residential neighborhood speeding.

This “priority” comment goes hand-in-hand with another often used phrase: “.... a useful tool.” Most recently, an ordinance banning smoking in parts was described as such.

These phrases should give every Baker resident pause. Here’s why: Codes and ordinances that get enforced or ignored on a case-by-case basis allow favoritism.

One person’s mess of a property is overlooked while another’s is deemed a hazard. One person’s pet is considered harmless while another’s is called a nuisance. One person’s business is charged a common license fee while another’s is hammered with special charges and restrictions.

It’s the very definition of the “old boy” system that has poorly served the common Baker resident over the decades.

Loss of compensation to address lacking performance isn’t uncommon. Start shaving dollars off paychecks every time a city employee deems something too low a “priority” to bother with, and things will certainly change. For one thing, we’ll find out who among these people are workers and who are simply placeholders.

If there’s too many rules to enforce, maybe Mike Kee should sniff out some outdated, unnecessary or unwieldy ordinances and recommend their elimination. A forward-thinking city manager would consider that time well spent.

Doug Darlington

Baker City