Monday, June 01, 2009

1 JUN 09: It's a Double Play

Well, well - I guess Mike Gaymon with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce was right. The recession IS ending early in our area, compared with everyplace else. Executives no longer are ashamed to give themselves big raises....

The Phenix City Council held a special session Friday, and did what critics had feared -- voting itself a big pay raise. WRBL reports the raise takes effect today. So maybe Council members have credit card bills to pay, from that state conference in Huntsville.

As of today, Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter's salary doubles. He'll make about $24,000 per year. Finally employees at Mead Westvaco have a reason to run for mayor -- because they could get a raise.

The Phenix City Mayor's salary might not stop there. A proposal was left on the table at Friday's work session to increase the pay to $35,000. All Sonny Coulter has to do is find a construction crew, to start building The Phenixian.

Before today, the Phenix City Council was paid $9,000 a year. Now the salary is about $21,000. And unlike major league baseball players, the Councilors don't have to pay a portion of that big raise to an agent.

Councilor Arthur Sumbry defended the 133-percent raise by saying it puts Phenix City's pay on the same level as the Russell County Commission. And you thought "keeping up with the Joneses" was supposed to go out of.... oh wait. Russell County has the Reeds and Pughs.

(The Phenix City Council reserves the right to increase its pay again, if the Russell County Commission does it. If a wage war develops between these two bodies, the only available mediator might be the Russell County Coroner - since he is Arthur Sumbry's son.)

Councilor Arthur Sumbry added the previous Phenix City Council also wanted a pay raise. In fact, that group discussed setting the salary for former Mayor Jeff Hardin at $50,000 - so take that, you scoffers! Sonny Coulter is a half-price mayor.

Arthur Sumbry added the pay raise for Phenix City Councilors is the first in more than 20 years. In fact, Sumbry now will be paid more than Columbus Councilors - and hasn't he earned it? After all, the Phenix City Streetscape ended with four lanes of traffic on Broad Street. Broadway still has only two.

Phenix City Councilor Max Wilkes expressed concern that the big raise was taking effect immediately. He wanted it to happen gradually, over three years - as if the last increase in June 2011 still won't be forgotten by most voters in the summer of 2012.

The Phenix City Council's raise was thanks in large part to state Rep. Lesley Vance. He guided a bill through the Alabama Legislature allowing city officials to vote on higher pay. Maybe Vance showed other lawmakers a photocopied picture of Councilor Jimmy Wetzel, with his scraggly beard.

Critics of the big pay raise note Phenix City officials are supposed to work part-time. Nice try - but Alabama state lawmakers are also supposed to be part-timers, and they voted themselves a big raise last year. Besides, doesn't Nick Saban only coach football games about 13 times a year?

Perhaps the critics would have been calmed if an "election clause" had been added to the bill. Federal law says if Congress votes itself a raise, it can't take the extra money until after the next election. Phenix City Councilors didn't even wait for the next weekly sale ad at Publix.

After searching all sorts of news media reports on this raise, one question remains unsettled to me. Where is Phenix City getting the money for this raise -- which totals more than $100,000 for this year? Will the Phenix City police be sharing some of Columbus's bicycles?

Now let's play some news catch-up from the weekend:

+ Columbus had its warmest day of the year so far, with a Sunday high of 90 degrees F. I still haven't turned on my air conditioner this season, but that could change this afternoon. There's no hockey game on TV to cool me off.

+ Millie's Market on South Lumpkin Road held its second annual "Soldier Appreciation Day." Considering how much crime that store has endured in the last year, maybe it's time to go beyond appreciating the soldiers - and start hiring some for security.

+ Scott Ressmeyer of Country's Barbecue returned to Columbus, from a 20-day cross-country motorcycle ride for the Children's Miracle Network. Ressmeyer even spent an evening in Canada - so if some of the barbecue pork tastes different in the months to come, he may have switched to Canadian bacon.

+ Cartersville came from a game down to beat Columbus for the Georgia state AAA baseball title. But how about freshman Kyle Carter hitting three home runs for Columbus in Game 1? They don't call it Cartersville for nothing, do they?

+ The Columbus Lions remained in first place by flooring Florence 37-14. Someone with the Lions dared to bring out the cliche that the team "controls its own destiny." Yeah, right - until the team bus breaks down on a road trip.

+ Instant Message to First Presbyterian Church Pastor Charles Hasty: Thanks for telling me your Pentecost Sunday stole was red. But I confess I might have missed a point in your sermon -- because I was adjusting the tint on my TV set.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.27 a gallon at Petro, Gentian Boulevard and Reese Road.... orange juice for $1.29 a half-gallon at Piggly Wiggly.... and plenty of Alabamians forgetting today is a state holiday for Jefferson Davis's birthday....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Today's post is dedicated to the man we considered our competition in the LaughLine era. May Jay Leno enjoy his summer break, preparing for prime-time - and we'll see if Conan O'Brian is better or worse.)

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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