Being a member of the Pocatello City Council isn’t easy.
There are dozens of meetings, many of them at night, that council members must attend. When not at meetings, council members spend a lot of time studying the many issues facing the city so they can make informed decisions.
Being the mayor of Pocatello is even tougher. Mayor Brian Blad manages our city government on a daily basis. He’s responsible for supervising hundreds of employees who provide a plethora of different services to our city’s approximately 55,000 citizens.
Many of those employees are members of either the Fire Department or Police Department and they also have tough jobs.
Pocatello’s firefighters and police have to go through extensive training, they work difficult schedules that include overnight and weekend shifts, and they often find themselves in harm’s way. Fighting fires can get you killed. Even more dangerous is being a cop, as evidenced by the almost daily news stories about police across our nation being gunned down for no reason other than that they’re wearing a badge.
The one thing other than the difficulty of their jobs that Pocatello’s City Council members, mayor, police and firefighters have in common is that they all want pay raises. The City Council has gone ahead to include whopping 48.5 percent raises for themselves and a 13 percent raise for Mayor Blad in the city’s budget for the next fiscal year. If the council gives the budget final approval, each council member will receive an annual pay hike of over $5,000 and the mayor stands to get a raise of more than $10,000 per year.
The council is negotiating raises with Pocatello’s police and firefighters and at present the council is offering the firefighters a 1.73 percent annual pay hike and the police a 2.5 percent annual raise.
It would be an understatement to use words like “absurd” and “preposterous” to describe the optics of the council’s move to massively boost its own pay and the mayor’s pay while offering salary hikes that can only be defined as insulting to the police and firefighters.
We’re dismayed that only two council members — Rick Cheatum and Roger Bray — are speaking out against the council’s salary increase plans.
The fact that a majority of our City Council is pushing a budget that gives the council and mayor huge pay hikes at the cost of public safety is as unthinkable as it is unsettling.
We say the pathetic raises being offered to our police and firefighters will impact public safety because we are going to lose experienced emergency responders over this matter. And good luck to the mayor and council if they think they’ll be able attract decent replacements with what the city’s offering compared to the rest of the state.
Some Pocatello police officers have not received pay hikes in more than two years. Our city’s Police Department is losing officers to other Idaho police forces that pay more and the department’s pay is so low that it’s getting tough to find rookie cops who’ve just graduated from the police academy who want to work here.
The current city budget included two new police officer positions but the police say they haven’t been able to find applicants to fill those spots.
Public safety is such an important issue nowadays that we’d much rather have well-paid police and firefighters than a well-paid mayor and city council.
Our question for the mayor and council is would they want an underpaid, inexperienced and unmotivated police officer or firefighter to respond to their next emergency?
That’s the future the City Council is creating with its proposed raises.
But the mayor and most of the council’s members seem more concerned with their own paychecks.
Bray, Cheatum and the rest of us, on the other hand, are more worried about ensuring the city has the best police and fire departments possible and that starts with adequate compensation.
If the City Council and mayor believe they deserve raises far beyond what anyone in the private sector is receiving, we suggest they make the case for those salary increases to the public — something they haven’t yet done.
Just saying they work hard and deserve more money is a weak argument.
In case our mayor and council need a reminder, our police and firefighters work hard too and put their lives on the line every shift. They also frequently save lives.
If the mayor and council do make a proper case for their big raises, we suggest they implement those increases gradually.
And we demand that our police and firefighters receive the same salary increases as whatever the mayor and council end up giving themselves because our responders are even more deserving.
The last thing Pocatello needs is a reputation as a place that doesn’t adequately pay or appreciate its emergency responders.
And if the mayor and council think their pay is so low, they can always not run for office during the next election and try to make more money doing something else.
We guarantee there are more true public servants like Bray and Cheatum who will be willing to take their places.