Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

COUNCIL AIDES; Trim by Example

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

COUNCIL AIDES; Trim by Example

Article excerpt

Council members are talking about making all kinds of cuts in the face of a tight budget year ahead.

But they will earn the scorn of city taxpayers if they fail to trim an excess right under their noses: their personal aides.

Each of the 19 council members can hire one. They typically make $53,900 a year (which is more than their bosses make), plus thousands more a year more in benefits.

The council needs to reduce them when new members take office in July.

The timing is perfect.

FISCAL CONSERVATIVES?

For starters, practically every council member and every council member-wannabe professes to be a staunch fiscal conservative nowadays.

Failure to prove it by making cuts in their own house would will be an arrogant display of hypocrisy the public would not soon forget.

Secondly, the council will welcome at least seven new members, and possibly as many as 14 depending on how incumbents fare.

None of the new members will have been working with an aide. And not all of them will need one.

CAN BE DONE

City Council member John Crescimbeni already has proven it can work without an aide.

Crescimbeni, one of five at-large council members, has chosen not to hire one since his current term began in 2008. He saved the city at least $138,500 in pay and health care costs alone during that time.

It hasn't always been easy, but Crescimbeni has made it work. Incidentally, this is not nuclear science. Previous City Councils managed to share aides.

A case can be made that each of the 14 district members need an aide. They typically get more calls and constituent inquiries than at-large council members.

But all council members should have access to help in answering calls, correspondence and scheduling.

The council could do that with 10 aides, giving the council president a dedicated aide and allowing the others to double up or pool. …

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