The Local Officers Compensation Commission worked just like the politicians intended yesterday when it awarded Grand Rapids Mayor Heartwell a 50% percent increase in his annual salary without any of our elected officials' fingerprints on the deal. Heartwell's new $60,000 salary is a done deal now, mandated by a board of unelected and unaccountable people, unless five out of the seven members of the Grand Rapids City Commission vote to strike it down.
Of course, Heartwell could have the decency amid the City's unprecedented budget crisis that will fire firemen and close public facilities to turn down the pay raise regardless of any City Commission action. Whether he will is up for grabs, because he complained last week to the compensation commission that being mayor was a full-time job and should have an $85,000 annual salary. Well, as noted here, the mayor's job is full-time only because Heartwell has made it so. Under the City Charter the mayor's role is mostly ceremonial.
The fact is that if the City Commission had not set up the Local Officers Compensation Commission as a sneaky way to get pay raises without voting for them, this huge and unprecedented raise for Mayor Heartwell would not have occurred. Even Heartwell would have had enough commonsense to not press for a raise while slashing $130 million in expenses from the City's five-year budget. What hasn't seem to occur to Heartwell is the notion that if the City Commission (which the mayor is a member of) has ceded to the compensation commission the authority to set salaries, then the City Commission has less work to do and so needs less not more pay.
The Local Officers Compensation Commission has made a decision yesterday that is completely unhinged from the hard facts of the day. That's an excellent reason to abolish this artful evasion of political responsibility and return the setting of elected official salaries to the City Commission.