When I heard that the Livingston County Board of Commissioners is likely voting itself an 8.4% pay raise on Monday, Dec. 14, I laughed, thinking it was a big joke.
Surely, no elected member of a public body in their right mind would consider gifting themselves a huge raise just before Christmas, in the middle of an economically devastating pandemic when there’s no governmental relief on the horizon.
It makes no sense at all.
People in Livingston County are trying so hard to make ends meet, to keep their heads above water. Small businesses are struggling to stay open, or they’ve closed or are closing, or they’re operating in defiance of the governor’s Executive Orders because they need to pay their rent and feed their kids. This is such an unprecedented, devastating time — physically and financially — for all of us.
Surely no one who has to answer to the voters in two years would do something so brazenly wrong-headed, so gobsmacking in its “let them eat cake” attitude.
The optics of an elected board voting itself such a huge raise in the midst of a tanking economy are horrendous. Horrendous! There’s no other way to describe it.
Surely, it’s a joke, right?
It pains me to tell you that the joke, fellow taxpayer, is on us, and it’s being played by a majority of the Republicans on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners and the Finance Committee, which are basically one and the same.
How politically stupid is this move?
How widespread is opposition to commissioners getting such a collosal bump in pay?
I share with you this true story, which is either an early Christmas miracle or the most 2020 thing ever: Meghan Reckling, chairperson of the Livingston County Republicans, and Judy Daubenmier, chairperson of the Livingston County Democrats — two political veterans who basically don’t have much common ground — agree 100% on the dumb-assedness of this raise.
There were four votes on the board against the raise: Board Chair Carol Griffith, Vice Chair Kate Lawrence, and Commissioner Wes Nakagiri — all Republicans — as well as Gary Childs, the lone Democrat on the board.
Those voting for the raise?
• Bill Green, currently a county commissioner who is not returning to the board in January. Taking his seat is Carol Sue Reader.
• Jay Gross
• Bob Bezotte, currently a county commissioner who is moving on to Lansing as a state representative in January (now with this politically toxic monkey on his back). Taking his seat is Republican Mitchell Zajac, who wisely expressed his opposition to the raise.
• Jay Drick
• Doug Helzerman
These five apparently don’t care much what the hoi polloi think; they apparently feel secure enough in their positions that they don’t mind looking like pigs feeding at the public trough in the middle of the biggest health and financial crisis of our lifetime.
The only Democrat on the board — Gary Childs — voted AGAINST this massive raise.
The Livingston County Board of Commissioners is supposed to keep the county humming along, the roads repaired, the lights on, the economy healthy. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If Jack LaBelle, Michigan’s longest-serving county commissioner of all time, were still here, this raise wouldn’t have made it to the committee in the first place. Probably the greatest politician Livingston County’s ever seen, LaBelle was all about the good of the community, not about raises for himself.
But there might be a good reason for wanting such a huge raise, one that escapes me. If Bill Green, Jay Gross, Bob Bezotte, Jay Drick, or Doug Helzerman would like to explain their vote to us, I am happy to provide them a guest column spot on the LivPo. All they need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, be sure to read this guest column by Judy Daubenmier, chairperson of the Livingston County Democrats. She makes some great points.
Be sure to also read this good reporting on WHMI on the Finance Committee meeting about the raise, in which Meghan Reckling, chair of the Republicans, urged the commissioners to “lead by example,” and incoming commissioner Mitchell Zajac urged the board to reject the raise.
And remember the names Jay Gross, Jay Drick, and Doug Helzerman in 2022 — this trio has handed anyone wanting to run against them a potent political cudgel. It might be just the right time to send a couple more Democrats to the county board.
Enough is enough.
Want your voice heard on the raise?
Everything you need to know about attending Monday’s Livingston County Board of Commissioners meeting virtually, or making your opinion known beforehand if you’re unable to attend, is available by clicking here.