Friday, December 1, 2006

Councilman Lew Fidler's Holiday Bonus

Friday, December 01, 2006 Random Insane Rants
"I am proud to be a member of the City Council, and if I could and I had to, I would do it for nothing. But I can't get Ithaca College to give my son room and board for nothing, I can't get Sunoco to give me free gas, and I can't get my mortgage company to waive my mortgage."

--Quote provided by Gotham Gazette, said in the November 15th New York City Council's "Stated Meeting." (The City Council Votes Itself a Raise)

"I am not in the luxurious position that Mayor Mike Bloomberg is in, to be able to do his job for $1 a year."

--Quote provided by The New York Times (Council Votes to Raise Pay of Top Officials, November 16, 2006)


--City Councilman Lewis A. Fidler (D-46th Councilmanic District) on paying his bills by voting himself a $22,500 raise.

Because it's not like being a City Councilman is officially a part-time job and Councilman Fidler isn't also making between $90,000 and $260,000 above and beyond the Council salary and his stipend as Assistant Majority Leader...right?

Although this is already half a month old, with the coming of December and the holiday season (and Bill O'Reilly's horror that I used the word "holiday") upon us, this is an opportune time to revisit the hefty bonus the City Council voted for itself. Upon seeing the quote from the Gotham Gazette's report of the Stated Meeting, this is a good time to address Lew Fidler on his actions.

According to Citizens Union, states the Times, Fidler did indeed report an additional income that is between one and three times the base salary from the Council. Including the $15,000 stipend awarded by the Council, this means that Fidler made between $195,000 and $385,000. This is based on the previous base Council salary of $90,000. The new $112,500 base salary was retroactively applied to begin on November 1, 2006. With Fidler's stipend, his Council earnings alone, given a full year, would amount to $127,500.

A chart provided by Gotham Gazette shows Fidler's total income, including various other salaries and bank accounts and his Council salary and stipend, amounts to "at least $179,000" for 2004.

This does not mean that Fidler is sitting in the lap of luxury the way top athletes, executives, and Mayor Bloomberg enjoy. However, for Fidler to suggest that he is struggling with his bills and thus deserves a 25% raise on his part-time Council salary is in extremely poor taste and only makes him look like a man stuffing his pockets with no oversight, which, many would argue, he is.

Most of the residents in the 46th also struggle to make ends meet and ensure that their families are given the care they need. However, since they do not have the luxury of being able to vote for their own 25% raise just in time for holiday shopping, they have to find other ways to stretch their paychecks to pay their bills. Instead of arguing that he needs a pay raise, Fidler could have paid those bills by cutting expenses.

Fidler seems to have been in a position to be able to have saved for his son's education. However, if he was unable to do so, like many families, he could have looked for scholarships with his son or have taken loans to finance his son's education. The downside of the loans, as those who take them find out, is that they cost more money in the long run. This is the price for not being able to pay for college up front. But, it is a worthwhile investment, from someone that is currently taking heavy loans to finance an education.

Instead of paying Sunoco money for gas, Fidler can instead take mass transit, as many in the 46th do. He would find out that it is normally a pain in the ass to commute from most parts of the 46th to Manhattan as there is a lack of mass transit options available. The best options from the 46th are the several express buses formerly operated by the Command Bus Company, although the trip from deep within the district takes one hour or more one-way on most days. It would be a great incentive to lobby for an expansion of mass transit options for the people residing in the 46th Councilmanic District.

To pay for housing, assuming he has already taken advantage of the low mortgage rates in the years past, a move might be in order. Whether it is to a cheaper home or even to a rental, many people do have to move to cut back on expenses. It does not seem like Fidler would need to move into an apartment like the two-room postage-stamp sized apartment that I have, but such a move would mean savings on monthly expenses and also on property taxes.

When there's a will, there's a way, especially considering all of the options that Fidler could choose from given his combined incomes. I did intern for Fidler's office briefly and I still do consider him one of the finer members of the Council. I'm even disappointed that my apartment sits on the wrong side of the border cutting through this street and has locked me into Kendall Stewart's 45th District. However, this act and his less-than-classy comments are very disappointing, to say the least.

Since the act has already been done and there is no way to review and possibly revise, the only thing that Fidler must do now is to be a leader and to help his constituents and New York City residents reach a position where they can worry about paying bills on the level that he has to worry about them. Many people are truly struggling and much work remains to be done.

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