Opinion

Basing mayor’s raise on results? What a concept

Given the current economic climate, we can’t fault anyone who’s expressing reservations about a measure being considered by the Port Orchard City Council that would effectively triple Mayor Lary Coppola’s salary.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago we were taking the Kitsap commissioners to task for approving a 2 percent raise for county employees not represented by a collective bargaining agreement.

And last time we looked, tripling one’s salary is a bit better than a 2 percent raise.

That said, the two situations are completely different and, for a variety of reasons, we’d at least be inclined to consider the question and could even be persuaded to approve of its passage.

Given certain assurances, that is.

One thing we like about the plan, for example, is that it’s based on performance. Rather than simply collecting more money for doing the same thing he’s been doing up to now, Coppola’s raise would be tied to his success in attracting new business development or a major annexation — such as the Bethel Corridor — either of which would generate enough revenue to justify paying the higher salary.

A politician who actually has to earn his paycheck — how novel is that?

We also like the fact that it isn’t an open-ended arrangement. Unlike most government budget expenditures, which tend to stay around forever once they’re approved, this one seems to include a sunset clause — meaning if Coppola isn’t earning his increased compensation after six months, the council can simply terminate the deal and the mayor would revert back to his former wage.

And we’d be the first to recommend doing just that under those circumstances.

Skeptics, meanwhile, have criticized the plan because it smacks of changing the rules in the middle of the game — and that line of reasoning has some merit to it.

Similarly, we’re somewhat sympathetic to the argument that the city may not yet need a full-time mayor.

For all its ambitious plans, Port Orchard is still a town of fewer than 9,000 residents and it’s certainly debatable whether a community of this size requires that much governance.

In any case, Coppola and every other mayor who’s run for the office over the years has understood going in what the job paid and known (or should have known) what the demands on their time would be.

So to come back less than a year into his or her first term and imply one is either overworked or undercompensated is bound to raise a few eyebrows.

But we’re not convinced that’s what Coppola is doing here. In fact, we’re pretty sure it isn’t.

What especially intrigues us about the idea is that it’s based not on giving Coppola a bigger slice of the city’s pie but rather on actually growing the pie.

Everyone in public office pays lip service to the idea of attracting development and employment to the region, but when the rubber hits the road we’ve seen too many examples of leaders who were overly squeamish about what kind of development it should be or who threw up so many road blocks that no one in their right mind would choose to do business here.

It’s almost enough to make you wonder how serious they were about growth in the first place.

Giving the mayor a personal — and financial — stake in making sure the city doesn’t simply rest on its laurels not only increases the likelihood that something positive actually will happen, but it also sends the message that, for a refreshing change, Port Orchard is more or less unified about overcoming its traditional inertia and moving ahead.

Does that mean we’re sold on the idea?

Not entirely, but it’s certainly worth exploring.

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