Perception is Reality
Posted: January 30, 2009
Timing is everything when trying to get things accomplished, whether it be in our personal or professional life - but especially if you are a local politician. Over the past month, the Eau Claire City Council has discussed three issues that give pause to the common refrain, "Perception is reality ".
Council Member Brandon Buchanan, who I think will make a fine professional politician someday, spearheaded an effort to increase the wages for himself and fellow council members. There is no question that potential public servants are not appropriately compensated. However, those who seek public office know that they will never be properly renumerated for the countless hours they spend doing their civic duty. In addition, I doubt a few extra bucks for council members' services would result in an overflow of new candidates for elected office. Having said that, there is merit to what Mr. Buchanan proposed. But this is no time to ask taxpayers to allow council members to give themselves a pay raise.
Council Member Dave Duax, who, by all accounts is a professional politician, proposed that a portion of Highway 93 be renamed " Gaylord Nelson Boulevard " in honor of the former governor and U.S. Senator. After some careful thought, Duax retracted his request after he realized that businesses along the newly-named thoroughfare would have to incur the expense of changing addresses, envelopes, letterhead and any other printed material. In addition, new street names need new signs, which would certainly be paid for by taxpayers. This was an admirable idea, but I would think elected officials have other pressing needs to address given the current economy.
Lastly, the council this week decided to postpone action on an ordinance that would increase the fees paid by developers who wish to undertake a project that requires infrastructure improvements. The city wants to recoup the cost of services already being rendered, which is appropriate. However, the new fees would raise no more than $30,000 annually and the increased costs to the builders would no doubt be passed along to anyone who wants to develop a new neighborhood or retail plaza in an area that is not already served by city roads, utilities, etc. The last time I checked, developers were not lining up in city hall to take our permits for major commercial/housing projects.
When the City of Eau Claire implements new fees for new development, I would hope the economy has started to improve before the plan is established. The wrong message is being sent to those who control what gets built here or somewhere else - even if it is a modest fee increase. Again, too often perception is reality.