Arrow-right Camera

Spokane

Doug Clark: Layoffs plus raises equals funny math

Thu., Jan. 22, 2009, midnight

Reading that hefty automatic pay raises have been handed to some of our highest paid Spokane County officials made me realize that the newspaper is still the best delivery system for imparting horrible news.

See, a newspaper reader can avoid stroking out by shaking the newsprint violently while screaming …

“PAY RAISES? THOSE MISERABLE #!!@!!s AREN’T WORTH HALF WHAT THEY’RE GETTING NOW!!”

Try blowing off steam with a MacBook. You’ll be lucky if the screen doesn’t pop off and go flying across the room like a Frisbee.

Pay raises for county officials?

Talk about lousy timing.

The economy is in the crapper. The unemployment rate is over 7 percent.

Just weeks ago Spokane County had to eliminate the equivalent of 26 jobs.

Some people are so broke that they’re having their family portraits taken at intersections with those red-light cameras.

We shouldn’t be coughing up one dime more for any public official.

This whole raise business gives me heartburn.

Take the income of Spokane County Prosecutor Steve “The Hibernator” Tucker.

I’ve never seen an official more on the “down low.”

Osama bin Laden makes more public appearances.

Of course, I shouldn’t be too judgmental. If I chickened out on filing charges after the death of Otto Zehm (the mentally impaired janitor who died after an encounter with Taser-happy cops), I’d be in hiding, too.

But getting back to the numbers …

Our Wednesday front page story reported that Tucker received a $30,000 bump in pay since his 2006 re-election.

That puts his annual salary at – wait for it – $145,271.

I need to shake my newspaper again and do some more wailing.

Tucker’s raking in $145K and change? Lord. That’s the value equivalent of walking into a McDonald’s and being charged five grand for an order of McNuggets.

I know. I know.

The prosecutor was elected fair and square. It’s not Tucker’s fault that his opponent in the last election had the charisma of tofu.

And Tucker doesn’t have anything to do with setting his own pay.

None of these bozos does.

Salary figures and pay increases for public officials are determined through a variety of creative accounting methods.

The numbers for some are set through lousy state laws. For other offices the figures are determined via county commission ineptitude.

But no matter which system is used, the goal is always to keep you – the taxpayer – in a constant state of bitterness and confusion.

Salaries for Spokane County commissioners are set by a 10-member board of individuals who are hopefully not on the take or related to the commissioners.

Currently, Spokane County commissioners make $93,000 a year plus a $595-a-month car allowance.

Or about $175 per bad decision.

What we citizens need is a uniform and unbiased method for determining what public officials should earn.

I can only see one fair way to achieve this.

First, no automatic raises.

If a public official thinks they deserve a raise, he or she needs to schedule an appointment with an impartial representative of the voters.

The official would then have to make a case for why he or she deserves more money.

After which I will look that official right in the eyes and say, “Hell, NO!”

That’s what I call a government for the people.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


Click here to comment on this story »