Last year the Greensboro City Council gave itself a 60 percent raise. The average city worker got a 3 percent raise. So the City Council gave itself a raise 20 times greater than it gave city employees.
Evidently that was not enough and, at the June 20 City Council meeting, the City Council voted to petition the state legislature for a special law to allow councilmembers to stay on the city health insurance policy after they are out of office. In some cases the former councilmember would have to pay for their own insurance, but with enough years under their belt, the taxpayers would foot the bill for their health insurance until the councilmember qualified for Medicare, and then the city would foot the bill for supplemental insurance as it does for other employees.
You either have to laugh or cry at the audacity of the City Council. The current City Council meets less than past City Councils. It also does far less. There was a time, when the City Council was involved in the budget process, that two-day meetings were held to go over City Council priorities and the direction they wanted the city to take, and even mundane items like fund balances, tax rates and bond expenditures were discussed.
This council held a shortened half-day meeting on the budget, and the “detailed directions” to City Manager Jim Westmoreland were to not raise taxes above 63.25 cents and to give the police a raise. Most of the $534 million budget was left to the discretion of Westmoreland and his staff.
Without City Councilmember Sharon Hightower, the business part of City Council meetings would last about 20 minutes. Just long enough to read the motions and vote. This council doesn’t even want to see the presentations from staff so they know what they are voting on. If it is recommended by staff, that is good enough for them. At times staff will insist on giving a short presentation. It seems city staff is more concerned with the City Council being informed about what they are doing than the members of the City Council are.
Hightower mainly asks about how much money is going to black contractors. There is absolutely no concern for cost or quality of work, Hightower’s concern is the race of the contractor and she doesn’t care whether the contractor actually has a construction company or if what the licensed contractor has is a cell phone used to hire sub-contractors to do the work.
There is a whole cottage industry now made up of black men and women who are licensed contractors, but they don’t do any more than sign forms and hire subcontractors. What the general contractor needs are black subcontractors to meet what are called Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) goals. Hightower and others see these goals as quotas of black sub-contractors on the job and these black sub-contractors are happy to help out.
It’s a racket, not that there aren’t plenty of other rackets that have grown up around the way that the government insists that work be done, but just because there are others doesn’t make this any better.
But other than Hightower’s interest in the MWBE program, this City Council shows very little interest in the business of the city. And now, as a benefit for their “hard work,” the City Council wants free health insurance for life.
The good news is that it was too late for the bill requested by the City Council to be passed by the General Assembly this term, which adjourned last week. In typical City Council fashion, nobody thought about it until the term was days from ending. But even so, the City Council jumped at this one trying to get its bill through in the last days of the legislature.
No doubt it will be at the top of the list of the City Council legislative agenda for the short session of the legislature next year.
And once that’s done, how about another pay increase for the City Council? It can’t be far behind.