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Council did not listen to taxpayers
Courier editorial
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The Hinesville City Council’s recent decision to increase the salaries of the mayor and council members was a surprise to most residents of our city. The vote followed a Jan. 7 vote taken after an executive session when the media and most attendees had left the meeting. To further cloud the first vote, the discussion to increase the wages of the mayor and council members was not included on the meeting agenda, as required by law
The more recent vote, which was taken during an open meeting and was on the agenda, will increase the salary of the Hinesville mayor from $15,000 per year to $40,000 per year, an increase of 167 percent. The council members will see an increase from the current $7,500 per year to $20,000 per year, also an increase of 167 percent. Since council members cannot legally vote for a pay increase for themselves while they are in office, these raises will go into effect in 2012 for the next term of mayor and council. Councilman Kenneth Shaw was the lone voice on the council to vote against the salary increase.
The mayor and council have received an unusual amount of criticism for the timing of the decision. Some who disapprove of the pay hike have cited the poor economy, others point to the recession that has gripped Hinesville and other communities. Still other opponents condemn the huge percentage increase at one time. Many critics even conceded that raises might be justified, but were alarmed at the size of this one.
Perhaps what is most disconcerting is the council’s sheer chutzpah in the face of taxpayer opposition to vote for the wage increase. And maybe that says more about us, the residents of Hinesville, than about those we elect to serve us.
The mayor and council obviously feel very confident that Hinesville voters will either forget about this increase before the next election or simply don’t care enough to actively voice an opinion, or to be involved in their city’s government. Either way, it’s a sad reflection on the state of our interest and participation in our local government that the council has very little worry about voting for a 167 percent wage increase when taxpayers have voiced such concern.
Perhaps even more residents would get involved or voice their opinions to the council if meetings were held after 5 p.m., when workers could attend. But, ultimately, regardless of meeting times, it is up to us, the residents of Hinesville, to determine how responsive our elected officials will be and it’s up to us to determine what kind of community we want. Residents deserve the government they get. When you’re involved and letting your voice be heard, government on all levels works for the residents.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

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