Bodyguards and Pay Raises for City Officials
Kansas City has an interesting way of setting salaries for its city officials. The salaries of the mayor and City Council members is pegged to what judges make either equal to that, in the mayor’s case, or a percentage of that, for the council. The end result is that the Mayor makes $114 K and the councilmembers make $57 K per annum. There has been controversy recently about the decision by the mayor and council to accept the most recent increase in salary. For the sake of comparison, the mayor’s salary is very comparable to that of other mayors, while the council’s is somewhat larger than average. It’s about $20 K more per year than a St. Louis City alderman makes, but Kansas City deserves credit for having far fewer councilmembers (12), than St. Louis has aldermen (28, plus 1 president of the board).
I prefer to see an election take place between elected officials’ salary increases, rather than for them to just go and do it or, in the case of Kansas City, accept one that was scheduled. There is nothing wrong with elected officials getting raises, I just like to see voters get a chance to take those items into consideration when they vote. Other than that timing issue, I do not think Kansas City officials are overpaid.
We have a strange and related item going on in Saint Louis city. The president of the Board of Aldermen and the comptroller have both added a budget item for security to their offices. In short, they both want a deputy sheriff to essentially be a bodyguard for them. In their defense, the positions would be "as needed" and not full-time which is especially appropriate for the president of the board, as that is not a full-time position itself. Even with the realization that the bodyguards would not be full time, only the highest-profile public officials really need bodyguards. The county executive of Saint Louis County does not have any security, so I certainly don’t think the comptroller and president of the Board of Aldermen need it.
The best item in the entire article, though, is at the end when State Rep. Tom Villa, formerly president of the Board of Aldermen, commits a classic Kinsley Gaffe. Here’s a quote from Villa, who had security when he was board president:
Tom Villa, the last Board of Aldermen president to have a deputy sheriff assigned to him, said he used the position as an extra staffer, "running errands, delivering papers and, in some cases, serving as a driver."
Just classic. You provide a bodyguard for security so an elected official can have someone else to run errands. Beautiful.