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January 22, 2020

Local Councilman Gorging At The Public Trough

Hayden Duke

Congratulations! On January 16th, 2020 a new dependent was potentially added to your family. How, you ask? The Charter Review Commission voted 4-2-1 (in favor, against, abstention) to “remove current prohibition on paying County Council members fringe benefits.”

Don’t pull out the sleeper couch and set another place at the table yet because this still has to be sent to the County Council who will then decide what, if anything, to put on the ballot for the election in November.

I won’t even talk about the obvious conflict of interest this would be, someone voting on their own benefits. So, let’s instead talk about the responsibility taxpayers may be called upon to bear for part time employees who – in almost every single case – have outside employment.

We aren’t even sure yet what might be included in a benefits package though I’ve heard everything possibly from health care to pensions. Might we go as far as Prince George’s or Montgomery Counties where Councilmembers, in addition to their 100k salaries, are given benefit packages including retirement plans that are comparable to actual tenured employees? Possibly.

Are they worth it? No. And, that’s nothing against our current members. It is not the duty of the Citizen to subsidize the fringe benefits of a part time elected official. It is called Public Service for a reason and when a taxpayer struggles to work 2-3 jobs just to support themselves while having more of their money taken to give healthcare to a council member that is public and taxpayer servitude.

I had a conversation very similar to this a few years ago with a candidate I was helping in a local election, something I very much regret now. This candidate told me that elected officials, full time, who are making over 100k should be paid more. The logic was that if you pay highly enough you will attract the right kind of candidate. That logic is utter bull crap. If you have to be enticed into public service by the money you don’t belong anywhere near the levers of government because you won’t run to help your fellow Citizens, you won’t seek re-election to make your community a better place, you’ll do it to keep the gravy train moving.

New Hampshire does it right, each Representative in their State House – which is the numerically largest legislature in the western hemisphere – is paid $200 per session, that’s it. Public Service should be a struggle, it should be something you do out of service, it should sting a little bit so that you don’t get too comfortable. You go in, you serve and then you go back and do your regular job. Never forget that no one makes anyone run for office, it’s their choice, they don’t get to make the rules and dictate their terms of service. Also, never forget that the biggest recipients of governmental assistance are elected officials.

It’s time to close the trough and say no to this idea of fringe benefits in Frederick County. They might send this trial balloon up and put it on the ballot but let’s pop that balloon but don’t do it where anyone can see you, I hear you might get fined.

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