Friday, January 15, 2016

Mayor De Blasio Agrees To Raises For City Council Members - People Are Pissed

Lots of people are upset over Mayor DiBlasio's accepting a recommendation from an independent panel to give 23% raises for members of NYC City Council. This raise would bring their salary up to $138k from $112k.

In exchange for the raises, the City Council members will no longer be able to hold jobs outside city council.

In a news story that I watched on CBS this morning, the react quotes were from two people:

  1. An NYC citizen who felt the council members are do-nothings who probably don't deserve a paycheck in the first place
  2. The president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (the nyc police union) who said that this raise is a slap in the face of police officers who, by comparison, received paltry 1% raises.

After reading the comments in the online version of the CBS story I watched this morning, which essentially echoed the citizen and the PBA president (but in much more angry terms), I felt like I should quickly write down my thoughts.

Here they are:

1. It seems like the people who gave the react quotes and the comment section people completely missed the fact that these raises come with bans on outside employment.

The raise is an acknowledgment of new regulations that would be placed on city council members that would effectively lower their income earning ability.

The $50k/yr (or higher...or lower) consulting gig that they used to work is now replaced with a $25k raise. That's significant.

The public benefits because, in theory, there will be fewer opportunities for conflicts of interest. To me, this sounds like a reasonable compromise. But to those who cannot get past the announcement of the pay raise, this sounds like civil servants enriching themselves at the taxpayers' expense. Why are people only capable of seeing one side of the story?

2. It seems like people are bad at math

Why can't people do math? Why can't PBA president see that there's a huge difference between giving $25k raises to the 51 members of city council (+ a few other elected officials like the mayor, comptroller and DA) and giving a raise to New York City's 50,000 police officers? I'm not saying the cops don't deserve a raise, but we're talking a 3 orders of magnitude difference in the number of people affected.
Quick Math Aside: If 50k cops get an average raise of $500 in one year - that will cost taxpayers $25 million. $25k raises for 51 people will cost $1.3 million. 
If the argument isn't about money, but rather fairness and principle - we have to take into consideration the fact that police officers are allowed to work outside jobs (e.g. bouncers, bodyguards) while carrying their department-issued service weapons. This legislation takes away from council members the opportunity to be employed outside of their city job. So there's that.

In closing, the reactions I saw serve as another illustration of why I hate people (read my post on hating people here). People generally do not think critically about things and they often express their poorly informed opinions as though there aren't any circumstances under which they could be wrong. (Aside: with that said - there is a good chance that this raise could just be bad policy. Why hasn't the baseline expectation for NYC's elected officials *always* been "no outside employment"? Why does correcting a wrong, assuming it is wrong, require a raise?)

In the defense of the people who gave react quotes in the televised CBS NY story, there is a chance that the reporter baited them into giving nasty react quotes by omitting the information about restrictions on outside work (juicer quotes = juicier story). But even if that's the case, the people in the comment section have no excuse. The full story was presented plainly online - the article headline reads: "DeBlasio Agrees To Raises For City Council Members In Exchange For Reforms"

i'm done.

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