Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Murrieta Should Show Fiscal Restraint

I have been a strong proponent of reasonable city councilmen stipends for their diligent work in our communities; not an opponent. However, I have also been a strong advocate of limiting the council’s other unreasonable benefits and costs to their communities, such as the approximate $8,937.20 per councilman per year in Murrieta to join the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) HTTP://WWW.WRCOG.COG.CA.US/ and other quasi-government clubs/identities that siphon the cities’ treasury. The total cost of these membership dues plus publications was $44,686 in the 2007/2008 budget. Membership and publications was only a small portion of the cost to the City of Murrieta for the city council. The total cost to the Murrieta taxpayers, including memberships, publications, health care, pensions, consulting fees, meeting fees, etc, for the five council members was about $280,305.00/yr (2007/2008 budget). This is an unreasonable and unacceptable amount.
When I heard that Ton Buckley, a Lake Elsinore city councilman, voluntarily deciding to decline his $400 per month stipend, I said to myself, what a refreshing good gesture in the right direction to show his constituents that local government is serious about cutting costs and limiting government’s expenses. Here is, finally, a man who wants to control runaway city budgets the same way that a responsible head of household would control his personal finances. Granted, $400.00 a month stipend per person is not of much concern (it’s mainly symbolic), but in unison with all the other councilmen, as per Tom Buckley when I recently spoke with him, acknowledged that it would afford the city a half-time additional needed employee.
Every qualified candidate who runs for city council is well aware that he/she is expected to put in a lot of “volunteer” hours. They should never expect to receive more than reasonable reimbursement for their expenses from the people that they represent; it’s the nature of the job. If they were expecting more, they should have reconsidered running in the first place. It is my personal belief that if any city official is that needy for $400.00, with all the temptation available to them, it could make an honest person susceptible to corruption. Many of these “volunteer hours” are spent going to various functions of goodwill for the city; I also attend many of these same functions as a concerned member of the community. I see these councilman constantly and I have no expectation or aspirations in being compensated; it’s the nature of being a contributing member of the community…it’s called public service.
One of the Lake Elsinore councilmen was complaining that he needed the stipend to pay for items he purchases on behalf of the city. But in fact, if a councilman makes a legitimate purchase for the city, there is a mechanism that allows the councilman reimbursement.
The Limited Government PAC (www.LGPAC.com<http://www.lgpac.com/), of which I’m chairman, as well as the National Tax Limitation Committee, supports such proposals as Buckley’s, especially at this time of national and local economic crises. Financial restraints such as Buckley’s proposal would make even Gov. Sarah Palin proud to be a member of our community, to know that there are civil servants that are looking out for the taxpayer and not for personal profit.

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