Snark Infested Waters ~ Bob Edwards

Bob Edwards


Public servitude

Posted on July 15, 2022 by Bob Edwards

Even if the Supreme Court does not nullify the 13th Amendment next year to again legalize slavery and involuntary servitude, Americans will still be able to volunteer to work for nothing. 

Which is essentially what candidates for a seat on Sonoma City Council agree to do when they ask voters to put them in a supposedly important civic post that pays a whopping $300 a month.  

That’s less than minimum wage when one considers that Council meets for several hours twice a month and its members devote many additional hours serving on various committees and attending one-off meetings to facilitate the workings of the City or regional government entities. At any hour of the day or night they also field city-business calls, emails, and texts from citizens, lobbyists, businesspeople, and politicians, many of whom aren’t city residents and can’t even vote for them.

Congresspeople and state legislators receive handsome salaries and other privileges and emoluments of office, not to mention an occasional call-it-something-but-not-a-bribe. Those on City Council don’t even get tips. Council candidates thus tend to be (a) rich (“heavily invested”), (b) lucratively employed, (c) very comfortably retired-with-benefits, and/or (d) judgmentally impaired.  

Insufficient remuneration may explain the number of resignations in recent years by those who eagerly sought and were elected/re-elected to seats on Council. Perhaps needing to keep their personal careers or finances on track and/or their families sane, they found they could no longer endure the commitment that public servitude requires. Council recently had to make mid-term appointments to fill two sudden resignation vacancies and an election was necessary after a third occurred.   

Candidates who draw election papers for a Council spot on this year’s November ballot should therefore expect to confront – during public debate or in the privacy of their own home – the inevitable question:  “Will you commit to serve your full term for the benefit of the citizens of Sonoma who put their faith in you and, if so, how the hell do you expect to make time for me and our kids??!!” 

Alas, recognizing Council work as the full-time job it is and paying accordingly isn’t in the cards; there’s just no money in the City budget. As it is, the City has to give money to nonprofits and other entities to do things the City would like to do, if only it had the money. For example, in 2014 it voted to give $25,000/year of City taxpayer money (for 10 years) to help build a swimming pool outside the City for the enjoyment of the entire Valley. Fortunately, the school district intervened to tax all Valley property owners (Measure E) to build a pool for the entire Valley, inside the City.  

So those running for Council this November should prepare for the day when, as inflation decimates their finances and Council work consumes their personal lives, they must Announce Their Resignation from that $300/month job. As that day could come at any time, smart candidates prepare their resignation announcements before they are elected, crafting them in a manner that makes them appear Noble, not feckless, scatter-brained, or money-grubbing.  

The best resignations convey that one is compelled to step away from their seat on Council to answer A Higher Calling. For example, to seek an even more important public office, or to enter a cloistered religious order that demands Vows of Chastity and Poverty but pays a lot more than $300 a month.   




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