Getting elected can be the easy job; knowing what you’re doing can be a totally different story. When the next Naperville city council meeting convenes this Tuesday May 7, two new, shiny council members, without dents (Theresa Sullivan and Patrick Kelly) will be sitting at the dais. They will have accomplished their goal of getting elected. Their next goal will be remembering where they sit at the dais, followed by learning Naperville’s version of Robert’s Rules Of Order. That can be tricky.
If Sullivan and Kelly think they have all the answers, they will be in for a rude awakening, as some former members of the city council have experienced. Some council members have admitted to not having all the answers, but their willingness to learn (Rebecca Boyd-Obarski) was refreshing. Others have learned by listening and observing (Kevin Coyne and Benny White), while others (last name rhymes with ‘Gustin’) could have benefited from the quote, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” That quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, or maybe it was Vinnie Goombotz.
Looking at the numbers:
Naperville city council members are paid $12,500 per year. Council members can work as little as they want (former council woman Becky Anderson), or as much as they need to get the job done properly (Paul Hinterlong).
An average Tuesday night city council meeting can last about two hours, with two meetings per month, minus about four meetings per year cancelled for holidays is 20 meetings per year totaling 40 hours which equates to $300 per hour. However most council members pack in the hours taking pride in getting the job done right. 20 hours per week is about 1,000 hours per year, which equates to $12.50 per hour. Compare that to a Wal-mart greeter making $13 per hour.
If a council member is elected to a 3-term limit (Paul Hinterlong and Judy Brodhead) that’s 12 years at $12,500 per year for a total of $150,000. Compare that to Philadelphia Philly baseball player Bryce Harper who just signed a 13-year contract for $330 million; Harper makes more money sleeping 8 hours per night for one week than Hinterlong and Brodhead make over a 12-year period as Naperville city council members. Granted, Hinterlong and Brodhead can’t hit the long ball, well, maybe Hinterlong can, but Brodhead is more of a bunting-move-them-along slap hitter.
Naperville council members are not in it for the money. Both Kelly and Sullivan may be surprised with the number of hours necessary to get the job done right. Neither will have alienated any residents/voters until they make their first council vote, then the irate phone calls and emails will begin to trickle in until it becomes a flood.
Another frustration they likely will experience is social media, mis-information. A classic example is tax, the city council has actually maintained or reduced the tax rate, while the school districts and park district have jacked up the tax. If you take a close look at your tax bill, you will see where those tax dollars are going, but most folks get upset with city officials, and specifically the city council regarding taxes.
Glossy mailers with cool pictures, beautiful colors, and lofty stated goals can help a candidate get elected, but it’s those same stated goals not achieved that can unseat a council member in the next election.