Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:
Jane B., Baltimore County: Please don't use my real name; my husband doesn't know I'm doing this. I had to talk to you about the 24 percent pay raise that Mary Pat Clarke wants for the Baltimore City Council.
My husband is a Baltimore City school teacher. He's a special education teacher. He doesn't even have paper to send notes home with the kids. He can't get paper to mimeo anything.
He can't get crayons for them; he can't get toys. So he buys them for the kids out of his own pocket.
When he goes to the Special Olympics with the kids, he pays his own way. He buys them Cokes and something to eat out of his pocket.
We had to tell our own child that he couldn't go to camp this summer because he had to get braces. And we can't afford both.
You know what else my husband does? He gets up at 4 a.m. to deliver papers so he can afford to be a teacher.
And do you think he's getting a pay raise this year? Ha.
It kills me that these fat cats in the City Council who get taken to lunch by lobbyists now want a big pay raise.
They talk about their long hours. Well, my husband sometimes takes these kids home and there is no one there, so he has to sit with them in the car until somebody comes home. Sometimes he doesn't come home until after midnight.
But where is the money going to go? To the City Council.
COMMENT: It sometimes takes a great deal of sacrifice to be a public school teacher these days. But how many people go into politics in order to make a similar sacrifice?
The City Council gets a pay raise merely by voting on it. (Technically they are voting on raises for the next City Council, but since almost all the incumbents get re-elected, they are really voting to line their own pockets.) Unfortunately few other people are privileged enough to vote on their own raises.
But I do have one suggestion: Next time your husband has to drive a kid home or to the Special Olympics or whatever, just call City Hall and ask Mary Pat Clarke to lend you her car and chauffeur.
And then get ready for your first big laugh of the day.
Jody Landers, Baltimore City Council, D-3rd: I think it would be a good idea to allow candidates filing for office, whether it be city, state or federal, to state on their filing application the annual salary that they would expect to receive during their term of office.
And that amount would be on the ballot next to your name and that is how much you would get if elected.
The decision then would fall to the electorate to decide not only which candidates they want, but what the amount of their compensation is.
If you want a higher salary, you would have to justify it. For those who are independently wealthy and have no need of compensation from the public treasury, they would be able to put $0 next to their name.
Some people say, well, you might only end up with individuals who put down the lowest level of compensation. My response is I don't think that would happen; the electorate is a lot smarter than that.
Secondly, if you have a group of individuals who were relatively equal in terms of qualifications and the only difference is the amount of compensation they are seeking, what difference does it make if candidates seeking the lowest salaries are elected? It would save the public some money.
I, quite frankly, trust the electorate to make reasonable decisions in that regard.
COMMENT: Landers, who is now a leading candidate for city comptroller, released his income tax statements recently (something all candidates for public office should do) and they prove he has not exactly gotten rich from serving on the City Council: He and his wife had an adjusted gross income of $39,077 last year. (His council job pays $29,000 per year.)
Landers' idea for stating the salary you want and letting the public decide is not a bad one.
And Landers -- as well as others -- has an even better way to save money. And it could boost the salary of council members at the same time.
That's right: We can save money and still boost council salaries.
We do that by eliminating the current system of having three council members representing each district. It is duplicated effort, inefficient and makes no sense.
Let's divide the city into, say, seven districts and elect one council person from each district. Then the council would elect a president from among its members.
That way we could pay each council person $50,000 per year (making it a full-time job) and the council president $65,000 a year and still save the city $210,000 a year over the current salary system.
This, of course, would mean that some politicians would lose their city jobs. And they would have to find real jobs. And that might be a hardship. But, hey, you can't have an omelet without breaking some eggs.
If Landers becomes city comptroller, by the way, his salary would increase to $53,000 a year. But he says he would refuse the car and driver that comes with being on the Board of Estimates.
Which is a shame in a way. It's a lot of fun after those meetings to see all the board members hop into their limos and drag-race.
Mimi DiPietro, Baltimore City Council, D-1st., Baltimore: I read this article you wrote on the pay raises. Why did you quote this guy from the 6th District [Joe DiBlasi, D-6th.] He's a piece of sh - t.
I'd like more money. I don't make no other money. My onlyest money is from the council.
Pension? Do I get a pension? Yeah, I get a pension. I get a little bit of money. I got some check the other day. I don't worry about it.
But I called to tell you that guy from the 6th District is a piece of sh - t. I'll hit him in his damn nose, that bum.
COMMENT: On second thought, maybe we shouldn't pay council members anything.