Looking too much like Washington, D.C.

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, January 24, 2013

By Jett and Jamie Johnson

Suffolk’s leaders have, apparently, followed the examples of our representatives in Washington, D.C.

As many of you are aware, the Suffolk City Council recently voted to increase our city manager’s salary by more than $22,000. It would appear, based on the reactions of Suffolk citizens to such hurried and veiled decisions made by our City Council, that the idea of servitude has been lost within our civil servants.

Email newsletter signup

As reported in the Suffolk News-Herald, some Suffolk City Council members were aware a vote to increase our City Manager’s salary would be presented near the first of the year, though this was never made public to Suffolk citizens.

A similar pay increase was proposed last year and was staunchly protested. Apparently, Suffolk City Council opted to act discretely this year, without danger of such opposition. As such, it would seem our government officials have forgotten whom they represent. They represent laborers, business owners, nurses, teachers, farmers — people who, in the last few years, have enjoyed stagnant incomes in our current economy, a far cry from a $22,000 annual increase.

Why would they approve such an increase to a city appointee’s salary? Councilman Charles Parr said, “I think everybody deserves an increase if their performance dictates it.”

It is time for our city officials to stop patting themselves on the back and doting on the accomplishments of their appointees and time for them to start remembering their constituents. Our tax dollars are earned at too great a cost to be so capriciously doled out for no other reason than the opinion that someone did their job properly.

How well is the city doing, after all? Two downtown businesses just blocks from council chambers, have closed just in the last month. The books may look better by the city’s standards, but they are no better from a citizen’s perspective.

In such uncertain times, we cannot spare another dime. It is simply irresponsible and unnecessary to have given such a big raise. Government employees who believe they are not expendable, stand in the way of others who would gladly work for their terrific benefits, more than acceptable wages, and the opportunity to serve our good citizens. There is no lack of qualified, young, ambitious candidates in the current job market.

Our City Council voted discretely on this measure because it knew the repercussions, had this been opened up for public debate. But by ignoring their constituencies, they have not adequately represented them. We have, at best, become an afterthought, if not disregarded entirely.

Suffolk citizens, ask your respective councilmen why they stood for such action. After all, it is your tax dollars that pay the generous salary of the city manager.

Our government has lost focus and has wholly stopped listening to the voices of those who elected them. Suffolk has, unfortunately, become more like Washington than anyone could have ever expected.

Brothers Jett and Jamie Johnson of Suffolk, are students in the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. Contact Jett Johnson at jettjohnson@gwu.edu and Jamie Johnson and tjhnsn@gwu.edu.