Well, in an effort to be more positive in 2021, I will say this:
At least the Hamilton County Commission is now circulating its pay raise end-around proposal through an email from the county attorney rather than the petition "randomly" placed in their break room a few years ago. At least there's a record of this one, right?
Yay, for progress in transparency.
The soundbites are laughable, gang, as the folks who have the nine votes that matter on the $700 million-plus budget of Hamilton County are posturing to side-step and wiggle around state law so they can vote on potential future salaries and pay increases.
Buckets, where do we start?
Many moons ago, I coined the phrase "Sneaky Six" for the commissioners at the time who were looking to protect the political slush funds known as discretionary accounts. I was against that then, and stand against it today.
In some ways, this latest maneuver is worse. The discretionary funds were six-figure political power accounts that allowed sitting commissioners to buy favor — and ultimately votes — by funding worthwhile causes and projects in their districts and around the county.
While that was a credit crusade, this is a money grab.
What the commissioners tried to do via email — privately — was to gather at least six signatures on a document asking the county legislative delegation to remove a part of state code that ties commission raises to those received by the county mayor. Neat trick, only they didn't get away with it. They had to take a public vote on a resolution Wednesday. Voting for the resolution were Commissioners Tim Boyd, Randy Fairbanks, Warren Mackey, Chester Bankston, Katherlyn Geter and David Sharpe; wisely voting against were Greg Martin, Sabrena Smedley and Chip Baker.
Sure, I get it when Sharpe says he wants this change in place because he wants to vote against pay raises. While we disagree on a lot of things, I think Sharpe is in this for the right reasons, but man, not since Gilligan has anyone been on that kind of island.
Mackey said he was happy to be a 'lightning rod' for this issue. Several other commissioners noted that this specific state statute applies only to Hamilton County, and they said they want to be treated like the rest of Tennessee's counties.
Second part first: Do they really want to be treated like their counterparts in the rest of the state? Because if so, be careful what you ask for.
Maury County pays its commissioners $80 for attending each of the monthly meetings and $40 for each committee meeting. For comparison, according to state numbers, Maury County is roughly the size of Bradley County.
Hamilton County commissioners get close to $25,000 a year plus an expense account for a part-time job. Then, factor in that the Hamilton County commissioners get insurance, benefits and a pension if they are elected for a second term.
Sounds like good work if you can get it, especially with the extra benefit of getting to decide on your own raises.
As for being the lightning rod, well, buckle up.
Mackey's contention that commissioners work 24/7 is almost laughable, if not downright disillusioned. Do commissioners work longer than sheriff's deputies or firefighters? Do you work harder than full-time employees across various county departments serving residents? Do you think you deserve more of a raise than those full-time folks, if not, then why look to separate the process for raises?
It's impossible to think this move by commissioners is anything but an underhanded effort to secure pay raises for themselves. And this from the elected body that is supposed to ensure our county tax dollars are efficiently spent?
Gimme a break. Commissioners, drop this.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.