Letter to the Editor: Thanksgiving Point Salaries – Can We Talk About This?
First, let me say I understand that being on the City Council is a very hard job that involves uncounted hours, often without a lot of thanks, and for that, I have nothing but gratitude, respect, and support. But part of being supportive means having the candor to speak up when things are off track. For me, this is one of those times.
If I understand correctly, the City Council decided to override the recommendation of its own PARC Tax Committee and allocate 91 percent of the money allocated to ongoing expenses to pay salaries at Thanksgiving Point because 1. We have all this money, and there weren’t many requests submitted, and 2. It’s “allowable.” That word, allowable, occasionally got me into trouble in my younger life, and I’m reminded of what my mother taught me many years ago after one of those episodes. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I think that applies here for two reasons.
First, we’re talking about salaries, which are recurring expenses. Thanksgiving Point will be asking for that amount every year. It will crowd out desperately needed support for groups where no one gets a salary and who don’t charge admission. Second, paying for wages appears to be a very slippery slope. Let’s say for discussion that I set up a foundation for a community orchestra, and I want a grant for $30,000. Part of that – say $15,000 is for salaries (I won’t disclose for what or for whom). Is that ok? What if the salary goes to my wife for administrative and emotional support? Is that “allowable?” What kind of precedent are we setting?
“But wait,” you may say, “this isn’t as bad as it sounds.” (That’s good because it sounds quite bad.) “There just weren’t that many other options.” That reminds me of something else my mother taught me – When you find yourself with more money than good ideas, don’t spend it on a bad idea; either save the money or get some better ideas. Let’s apply that concept here. Slow down, have an open public discussion, keep things open for a while longer, look at what other communities are doing, publicize the heck out of submission requests and let’s see if we can find some better uses for some of that $300,000.
I’m not saying Thanksgiving Point isn’t worthy of some support; I’m a member myself, but this budget seems way out of balance, and it frankly doesn’t pass the smell test. City Council, please reconsider your decision, and listen to your own committee. We’re doing PARC spending here, not PORK spending (admittedly, the pronunciation difference is subtle in our state). It would be a shame if the voters couldn’t tell the difference between the two in future election cycles. They might develop an appetite for “PARC-chops.”