While the Westminster City Council's refusal to study the pay and benefits of the city's elected officers may have been politically correct, it was not particularly courageous.
The council dodged an opportunity to evaluate the current compensation for the mayor and council members.
Pay for elected officials always generates controversy, but Westminster's citizens need to explore and resolve a number of legitimate issues.
It has been a decade since Westminster's elected officials have had a raise. The public generally loathes increasing the salaries of elected officials, but any fair-minded individual would agree that 10 years is a long time between pay reviews.
Even public servants deserve fair compensation for their time. There are 13 Maryland municipalities smaller than Westminster that pay their council members more. While no one runs for public office in Westminster for the money, people who occupy those positions are giving up time and energy, which has value.
Is the current rate of pay -- $10,000 for the mayor, $3,000 for council president, $2,400 for council members -- appropriate? Maybe it is, but why not have a study group take a look?
Currently, the city's elected officials are not reimbursed for long-distance phone calls or for the use of their personal cars while on official business. Most businesses and governments compensate their employees for such expenses. Shouldn't Westminster follow that accepted practice?
To ensure a regular review of elected officials' pay, the council should establish a salary review mechanism. A panel of citizens could periodically review current pay and make recommendations. The council should also maintain its practice of recommending pay increases only for future councils, thus avoiding the politically unacceptable situation of raising its own pay.
In their greed and insensitivity to the public, members of Congress have poisoned the public discussion of pay for elected officials at all levels. Even frugal bodies, such as Westminster's part-time council, would rather sidestep the messy subject. As much as voters may despise raising elected officials' pay, however, we should not forget the link between performance and pay.