Letters: Council doesn’t deserve raises funded by taxpayers

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IBJ editorial writers missed the point of my argument on pay increases for the Indianapolis City-County Council [“Editorial: It’s time to allow a pay hike for city-county councilors,” May 6]. They should listen to my shows on WIBC and not base an editorial on one tweet.

This is the fourth time in seven years that the council has pushed for more money, looking to increase members’ base pay from approximately $11,000 a year to $31,000.

The IBJ posits a theory: More pay means better quality people attracted to public service. It’s a rational theory; the private sector often shows that dollars are the key to attracting and retaining top talent.

For the council, we’re calling this a raise. But a raise is to enco urage top talent to remain and create more value for the company (or, in this case, the city.) Can the IBJ really tell Hoosiers that the City-County Council has done valuable work over the last five to seven years that deserves a raise? Have they created tangible value for Indianapolis? Perhaps the editorial board could find an item, but I doubt that they could find a plurality of issues where the council has provided value and Indianapolis has thrived because of it.

The murder rate is an important subject. Not because the council can stop every murder (it can’t), but because members could say something about it.

Our city is not safe, and our council is silent. Silent when we have riots. Silent when people are killed. The city then spends $1 million to create an ad campaign telling Hoosiers, “Hey! Indy is great! Come downtown!” That’s $1 million that could have been used to fix the broken glass from riots that never should have happened or to attract more tenants to the multitude of “for rent” signs we now see on Washington Street.

As for the argument that Fort Wayne or Fishers or Louisville pay more, that, dear readers, is the predictable political drumbeat. What other cities pay is irrelevant. If the city believes a pay increase is needed after 20 years, then people can vote for it. The IBJ could have long advocated for it. But a council that did little to help small businesses rebuild (after riots and COVID) and, as I discuss often, has no vision for the growth and future of Indianapolis, has a lot of nerve asking those same people to pay members more while the diverse, small business community gets less.

What truly baffles the mind is the idea that—in politics—higher pay will get you higher quality. Is there an argument that there are 50 candidates waiting in the wings with huge visions for the city and a can-do attitude who can turn this ship around if only we paid $31,000 a year? Twenty candidates? Five?

The same people who have not provided results will be the same people who will still not provide results, but they’ll get an extra $15,000 to $20,000 to not provide results! Why is it so outrageous to say to a government employee, “You’re not doing a good job?” Honesty compels us to this statement: The Indianapolis City-County Council is not doing a good job. At all.

I believe the IBJ wants what we all want: a better Indy and a better Indiana. To get there, Indy must honestly assess its situation, recognize its successes and failings and, yes, find new blood to run for office. If the voters want to pay those people more, that’s fine by me.

Indianapolis has nothing but upside. I continue to be bullish on Indy’s future and will work as hard as anyone to help build it. But clamoring for pay raises because “other cities do it” and without noting where things must improve is not the way to get there.•

—Tony Katz

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