Does Gainesville need a “professional” city commission?
Is Gainesville too cheap to pay for good government?
It’s an interesting question, and one that was raised by Mayor Lauren Poe during the City Commission’s recent discussion about whether the city needs a “strong mayor.”
Poe argued that the effort mayors and commissioners need to properly educate themselves about city business and make intelligent policy decisions is so time-consuming that, if done correctly, amounts to a full-time job.
Poe said he and some others have opted to give up other jobs in order to fulfill their city duties correctly.
If voters want good decision making from their elected officials, they ought to provide adequate compensation “so people can support themselves and their families.”
The lack of “fair pay…significantly diminishes the pool of people who are willing to do this job,” he said “We would get a bigger pool (of candidates) with better pay.”
Last year the city’s Charter Review Commission rejected a ballot proposal that, if approved by the voters, would have raised the mayor’s salary from $44,209.91 to $70,550.06 and commission pay from $34,736.32 to $60,550.07 by 2025.
By way of comparison, the median household income in Gainesville is $51,241.
Still, mayor and commission salaries are not set by the charter, but rather by ordinance. Commissioners have the power to change ordinances, so theoretically, they could vote themselves a raise without voter approval.
On the other hand, traditionally, city commission service has been considered a civic duty rather than a full-time profession. For generations barbers, realtors, bankers, educators…people from all walks of life have run for and served on Gainesville’s “board of directors” without regard to compensation.
What do you think? Do the challenges of running a modern city justify electing, and compensating, full-time mayors and commissioners? Or should commission service properly be considered a civic duty rather than a profession?