Not long after I became Managing Editor here at The News-Dispatch, I came across a list of city employees and their salaries, ranked from highest to lowest.
Prior to viewing this list, I had an idea that the people making the most money, in no particular order, would be the police and fire chiefs, the heads of departments like sanitation and water and, of course, the mayor.
Looking at the list, my suspicions were more or less confirmed, though I was surprised to see that there were several fire department employees who made more than their chief.
Even more surprising, though, was the position on the list of the highest office in the land — mayor.
I honestly don't remember the exact ranking back then — though I remember thinking it was absurdly low — but looking at an updated list from 2015, I see that Mayor Ron Meer — with a salary of just more than $69,000 — ranks 43rd.
Yes, 42 people employed by the City of Michigan City make more than the mayor.
This has been a hot topic of conversation lately, of course, with the 2016 budget recommendations including a 19.5 percent increase for the mayor, which would take the position to just more than $81,000. It's important to point out that elevated number still wouldn't quite crack the city's top 10.
The mayor has mostly taken a beating on social media for this, but that's not exactly exclusive company. Social media is kinda known for that.
Look, the optics of this are bad for the mayor. I get that. Giving yourself a bump in pay nearly 10 times that of what is being suggested for most other city employees seems out of whack.
But, let's try and have some sense about this. The mayor of a city — the size of Michigan City or any other size — shouldn't be outpaced in salary by many people, but certainly not by more than 10 percent of the city's full-time workforce. Imagine, for instance, if the base salary for the President paled in comparison to that of the Secretary of Energy or some random person in the Treasury department.
(Editor's note: A rudimentary amount of Google research turned up some salary-related shenanigans at the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency, which boasts some federal employees who make more — a lot more — than the President. However, this seems to be the exception to the rule. And, yes, the editor added an editor's note to his own column.)
To make it even more relatable, if you are in a management position at your job, how would you feel about a large number of people who report to you taking home more money than you?
Yes, yes, public service is supposed to be about, well, service — not money. But, let's be real. Your salary speaks to how your employer values you and your contributions.
As the mayor's "employer", I'm certainly not comfortable with that position being so far down on the city salary schedule. Just seems wrong.
So, the mayor was due a raise and will hopefully get one. Optics aside, it's the right thing to do.
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-219-214-4170.