Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The County Raise

Since there is a lot of misinformation going around I thought I'd finally chime in and explain a few things about the raise the El Paso County Commissioners Court gave itself recently.

First let me be clear about one thing. And I want to say it while I still have your attention because sooner or later one of you fools is going to screw this up, so here goes:

I thought the raise was too much at one time and should have been phased in. 

I underlined it and italicized it because you people have a bad habit of changing what I say to fit your own narrative sometimes.

Now let me hit you with some facts that some of you clearly don't understand.

1. There is no way the raise could have been voted on by the public. The ONLY way the Texas constitution allows a raise for commissioners, or any of the other El Paso County elected officials, is by vote of Commissioners Court. So for all of you saying it should have been taken to the voters, it couldn't have by law. You might want to stop demanding something that the law doesn't allow for. Especially if you are a City Rep like Cortney Niland. You just make yourself look ignorant of process when you call out another entity for something that you yourself actually want. In short, Commissioners Court doesn't have the AUTHORITY to take it to the voters.

2. El Paso was, and still is, the least paid commissioners court of the urban counties. Yes, that is true even after the raise.

3. There was an actual calculation that went into establishing the salary. They took the median salary of the urban counties and subtracted 30% to mirror El Paso's economy, meaning EP commissioner's make only 70% of the median salary of urban county commissioners courts. And that is AFTER the raise. By contrast, the city's process for establishing how much of a raise to give Tommy Gonzalez, which was more than double, close to triple the amount the commissioners got, was basically Rep Acosta calling some other cities and asking what they paid and then Rep Niland created a list of reasons why he deserved it. So at the very least, there was a method to how they established the number at the county.

4. Low salaries mean El Paso elected officials don't look like El Pasoans. This is an important point and it explains why our electeds don't reflect our population. When such an important job pays basically nothing, then the only people who CAN AFFORD to run are the people that don't need the money. That is not El Paso. So think about city council. You have mostly really old or really wealthy people who are making the decisions for everyone else because they are rich or have a pension. Of the members of council that aren't wealthy and look somewhat closer to your average El Pasoan, none of them even have children.

At commissioner's court you have a wealthy guy, a guy with a pension (those were the two no votes because they don't need the money) and you have two lower middle class guys and one upper middle class woman. And a majority of the court has minor children. Much more reflective of El Paso than the city which is essentially made up of upper-cruster elites and retired old people. For some on council like Cortney Niland, a raise just means a new Coach bag or Prada shoes, but for others it would make it a position worth seeking. Lower salary means less talented people vying for office. Look no further than El Paso City Council to illustrate my point.

5. The notion that there was no notice to the public is absolute bullshit. And frankly a terrible story on KFOX is partially to blame for putting forward this narrative. Commissioners Court publishes their agenda online. That device you're reading this on is the same device you can access the agenda. They are required by law to give the public 72 hours notice of any official action they take from closing a road to approving a raise. Also, the commissioners court has been holding hearings on the budget for WEEKS.

But I get it, maybe you don't have time to take off work and go sit in one of those meetings. Well, the County has a solution for that. They stream the meetings online you can watch from everywhere, including on the toilet where you are probably reading this post. But I get it, maybe because of work and other obligations you can't devote your entire day to watching the live stream because your boss won't let you or because you gotta get shit done. Fear not, the County has a solution for that too. The meetings are archived and you can go back and watch any or all of the meetings at your convenience. Now, if you choose to binge-watch Game of Thrones or Ballers instead of keeping up with your local government, well the County can't help you there. If the public didn't know its because most of the time they are blissfully ignorant and don't take it upon themselves to actively monitor their government.

Oh yeah, before I forget, the KFOX thing. There was a KFOX story done on this and one of the elements of the story centered around the ridiculous notion that the public didn't have adequate knowledge of the proposed raised. Despite all the methods of notifying the public I outlined earlier, the reporter from KFOX chose, of all things, County Judge Escobar and Commissioner Perez's twitter feeds as his measuring stick for public notice. He made the very dramatic point that neither of them had tweeted about the agenda item! Cue the Law & Order sound effect. The problem is, they never tweet about agenda items before a vote. Its not used as a notification system. They reporter just completely made that shit up out of the clear blue sky. Frankly, I think Escobar and Perez should grow a pair and call that guy out for it, but thats just me.

Bottom line is that with all the methods of notification that are utilized by the County, and the media attention that happened before the vote (that was actually on MONDAY, not last week, if someone didn't know about the proposed raises, its because they failed as a citizen.

6. Commissioners, after the raise, now make an amount similar to what the Fleet Manager and the IT Help Desk Manager make for the County. The County has done a great job of taking care of their employees which is why county jobs are so much more sought out than their city counterparts. Think about it, the County Clerk, District Clerk, County Manager, and almost every department head, who's budge the Court is responsible for, make more money than the commissioners. Significantly more. Even after the raise. Seriously - CONSTABLES have more more money than Commissioners. And there are just CONSTABLES!

7. Every level of legislative government has the power to either give themselves a raise or put it on a ballot similar to what commissioners court did, and what Congress does ALL THE TIME.

8. In the private sector, businesses pay more for better talent. Its part of business. You want the best talent available? Offer a competitive wage and give the talented people a reason to compete for the job.

More on the raises later...


elrichiboy said...

Well, Jaime, if they only posted the salary increase with the agenda, they're not in agreement with the law. The Texas Local Government Code states:
Sec. 152.013. PROCEDURE FOR SETTING AMOUNTS FOR ELECTED OFFICERS. (a) Each year the commissioners court shall set the salary, expenses, and other allowances of elected county or precinct officers. The commissioners court shall set the items at a regular meeting of the court during the regular budget hearing and adoption proceedings.

(b) Before the 10th day before the date of the meeting, the commissioners court must publish in a newspaper of general circulation in the county a notice of:

(1) any salaries, expenses, or allowances that are proposed to be increased;

(2) the amount of the proposed increases.

(c) Before filing the annual budget with the county clerk, the commissioners court shall give written notice to each elected county and precinct officer of the officer's salary and personal expenses to be included in the budget.

The Lion Star said...

That is EXACTLY what is happening. I think you're confusing adopting the budget with passing this item.

The budget doesn't get adopted until September. So the item she be published in the newspaper by Sunday I believe.

So you actually demonstrated that they are following the process.

Thomas said...

Here is one fact Vero, Vince and you can't spin or get around is the CCC took a public spanking on this one from the citizens of El Paso County. Should have been awake up call for some members of the CCC but in their case you can help arrogance and ignorance shown by their self serving interest in this matter.
Jaime, Vero, Vince and you can try and wrap this in pretty packaging with ribbons and bows but it still shit,it stinks and you know it like the majority in El Paso who believe the raise is wrong and this last week end gave the CCC an ear full to this fact. Yep we have source too.
Then it has proven once again that most local elected officials do not give a rat ass to what the majority of citizens in El Paso and El Paso County want or think they serve themselves,their good buddies and special interest that feather their nest.

C.D. said...

County Jobs are more desirable, hence the nepotism.

The Lion Star said...

Name one example CD. Because I'm betting it doesn't fit the definition of nepotism.

Anonymous said...

wow you finally got comments

The Lion Star said...

Comments matter that much to you fool?

You don't come here to read comments.

C.D. said...

I could pitch a "Graduate Study" with County.

1. Everybody would have to declare if they "know" a family member working for the County.

2. I could then run DNA swabs over a statistically significant random number and compare the results.

I wonder what they would be?