THE SALARY OF a Chicago alderman is $50,000 per year, plus bennies and perks -- and that doesn't count graft. There are 50 aldermen in Chicago. A couple years back, 12 of them were under indictment at one time.
The salary of the guys who went to Philadelphia in 1776 and in 1787 to knock out the Declaration of Independence and Constitution was zip. Nada. Zero.
California's legislators are paid four times Arizona's, not including extras like a free leased car of their choice, all known bennies (including a burial plan), and a 25-member staff. Arizona legislators each get one secretary. Yet at the conclusion of this state's infamous AzScam corruption probe in 1991, there were still more former California lawmakers in jail than Arizonans.
The guys who landed in France on D-Day started at $21 a month. That's what Private Ryan was paid.
Once again, the proponents of higher pay for politicians trot out the shopworn myths about how higher pay gets you better people. "Competitive salaries will help attract and hold highly qualified leaders," we're told in the Pro arguments for Prop 100.
Paying more money does not get you better people. It hasn't anywhere else. There's strong evidence that it gets you worse people.
It encourages losers who can't make a living to go into politics just for the money. County supervisors now make $52,000 per year. In 2001 that goes to $60,000. That's more than most county supes ever made in their life. Are the five of them in Pima County that much better than the six Tucson Council members who draw $18,000? Will those Council members get that much better if Prop 100 passes and they go to $24,000?
Most office holders aren't crooks -- even a majority of Chicago aldermen operate lawfully. Dishonesty isn't the worst problem we face with our current crop of public officials. Cowardice is. Craven is much more commonplace than crooked.
We are constantly told that most politicians just want to stay in office and will suck up to any special interest group to do so. What we don't hear is the reason. Most pols worry about staying in office so they can keep getting paid. They don't want to lose their jobs because we have now defined public service as a "job." It isn't. The two are not the same. The higher the pay, the higher the paralysis when an action might threaten maintenance of that pay.
That redefinition of public service to "just a job" has contributed greatly to the low regard most people have for politicians. Everybody -- right and left, up and down -- moans that there isn't enough citizen involvement. Then why convert what few citizens you can get involved into full-time employees by paying them for the involvement?
The Tucson City Council is and should remain a part-time job, allowing anybody to seek it and still retain another method of earning a living. A salary of $18,000 per year for council members and $36,000 for the mayor, plus the free car, plus the insurance, pension and other benefits is more than sufficient.
In fact, it's more than a whole lot of Tucsonans make now for a real job.