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|Local issues raise eyebrows|
The City of Vidalia will give taxpayers an opportunity to voice their opinions on whether pay raises should be given to the mayor, police chief, aldermen and city employees at a public meeting next month.
In Ferriday, two members of the town's board of aldermen decided Tuesday to send outgoing Mayor Gene Allen to a beauty pageant in Las Vegas. Ferriday taxpayers will foot the bill for the mayor's $300-plus round-trip airfare.
On the pay raise issue in Vidalia, an ordinance was prefiled Tuesday night at a board of aldermen meeting to give the mayor a $16,000 annual raise. The police chief would get a $10,100 pay hike as well, according to the proposed ordinance.
The proposal also includes a $300 monthly pay raise for aldermen and a three percent pay raise for city employees.City manager Ken Walker says the proposed raises would bring salaries more in line with communities the size of Vidalia. Also, Vidalia can afford the raises in light of sales tax receipts rising steadily thanks to growth in the business community.Vidalia's proposal doesn't seem out of line considering the arguments made by Walker.
There's nothing illegal about the town's board of aldermen voting to raise its pay, and there's nothing illegal concerning the mayor supporting it.
Yet, should public officials vote to raise their own salaries, though they knew what the positions paid when they were candidates for office?
Ultimately, the citizens of Vidalia can play a role in deciding that issue since they have an opportunity to influence a decision on the proposed pay raises. Vidalia citizens should express their opinions, too.
We would be remiss, though, if we did not commend Mayor Hyram Copeland and Vidalia's board of aldermen for handling the matter in a fair and open manner. That's the way it should be handled.
In the meantime, the airfare flap in Ferriday stands out as one of the most useless expenditures by a municipality that we've witnessed in years.
Two weeks ago, the measure to send Mayor Gene Allen to Las Vegas died because the town's board of aldermen recognized a blatant misuse of public funds when it saw it.
Gloria Lloyd, the member of the board of aldermen whose daughter is a pageant contestant in Las Vegas, offered the motion to pay for Allen's more than $300-airline ticket. Three other aldermen at the meeting declined to second her motion. This week's board of aldermen meeting was a different story.
Alderman Johnnie Brown, who missed the regular meeting two weeks ago, offered the motion to pay for Allen's plane ticket during this week's special meeting. Lloyd seconded the motion. Two aldermen didn't attend the meeting; alderman Jerome Harris voted against the measure, which passed 2-1.
While there isn't much money at stake in the "Travelgate" flap in Ferriday, the action of the mayor and two aldermen show a general disrespect for taxpayers and town residents. Harris, himself, said it was a "set up."
"Set up" or not, we have a better description for it.
Arrogance run amok.
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