Longtime State Senator Jabo Waggoner from Jefferson County is a friend.
I like and respect him, but no one bats a thousand.
I’m sure Senator Waggoner has good intentions, but last week he introduced a bill that will set the City of Birmingham back 50 years.
I’m taking an unpopular position, but from a business perspective, I know I’m right.
In 2015, the Birmingham City Council voted to raise salaries for themselves from $15,000 a year to $50,000 beginning after the August election this year.
I’m not saying $50,000 is the right amount and I’m not comfortable with the way the legislation was passed, but I strongly feel it was the right thing for Birmingham.
Senator Waggoner’s new bill effectively blocks that pay increase from going into effect.
I think most people agree that we would like for our government to be run like a business.
Successful businesses recruit good people and pay them competitive wages.
Birmingham City Councilors are not only underpaid, but they haven’t had a pay increase in over twenty years.
The City of Birmingham is a very large business with a budget of $420 million.
I heard an interview on WBHM by one of the current Council members when the wage increase was passed in 2015. The Councilor said he/she had never worked at a job where he/she earned more than minimum wage.
It would not be fair for me to criticize the financial capabilities of that Counselor because I don’t know him/her personally, but in general I think it would be a safe to say that most private companies wouldn’t trust a $10 million, $100 million, or $400 million budget to a minimum wage employee.
Birmingham will never be able to attract strong qualified candidates for public office with substandard pay.
Birmingham now seems to be attracting good candidates
In the past month I’ve had substantive conversations with two young professionals who plan to run for City Council. They are bright and educated men who would be welcomed in leadership positions anywhere in our region.
I didn’t ask them whether the pay increase encouraged them to run, but it’s obvious few qualified candidates would run for public office if they were paid less than minimum wage to struggle in the topsy-turvy world of Birmingham politics.
I’ve been told that the number of potential candidates for Birmingham City Council has grown exponentially for this upcoming election in August.
If we take away the pay increase, we will eviscerate the number of qualified candidates.
It’s ironic that our State Legislature is drowning in problems from budget shortfalls to prison reform, but instead of putting 100% of its efforts into fixing our state, they choose to micromanage Birmingham.
Good leadership is critical to Birmingham’s future.
You get what you pay for.
Birmingham deserves more.
Let’s turn Birmingham around. Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)
David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.