Editor’s Note: This article came out a couple months after the newspaper that published it, The Stamford Advocate, had released its annual list of the highest-paid city workers. This list — which includes the school painter who made $121,000 in 2006 — is always a shocker for the Stamford residents who have to foot the bill for these salaries. And many of the taxpayers question how it’s possible for these people to work the amounts of overtime they’d need to put in to be so handsomely compensated. However, the municipal unions’ gouging of citizenry is like the weather — everyone complains about it, but no one does anything about it. I realize this article is probably of little interest to anyone outside the southwestern Connecticut area, but, every now and then, I feel like doing a local story.
No matter how much Americans have, we always want more. And nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than in lower Fairfield County.
Governor Rell and the Democrats in the State Senate want Connecticut’s residents to have universal healthcare. Unfortunately, they have no idea how to raise the $450 million/year this would cost. Some Democrats have suggested a millionaire’s tax, but, here on the Yankee Riviera, that’d be as popular as a surcharge on Botox. Besides, good Republican that she is, Governor Rell has already pledged to veto any such measure.
The governor’s also seeking large-scale increases in education funding. Other than lifting the spending cap, that was imposed in 1992 to facilitate the passage of the state income tax, there’s no way to pay for that either.
If you’ve seen The Stamford Advocate list of the highest-paid city workers, you might wonder if our schools really need all that extra money: It might be more cost-effective to encourage students to join a municipal union and live off the largesse of the taxpayers. But that’s probably impractical and certainly cynical.
One way to free up some additional funds would be to impose a spending cap on unionized workers’ wages, but that’ll happen on the same day Joe Lieberman concedes that invading Iraq was a bad idea.
Besides, taxpayers who object to police officers’ quarter-million-dollar salaries and school painters with six-figure incomes need to realize it’s good fiscal management to have city workers put in that much overtime … even if it’s hard to see how it’s possible to fit that many hours into a seven-day week.
This little drawing
was done by my wife.
But before you get the idea that raising new revenue is impossible, here’s a modest proposal for Stamford that doesn’t increase taxes or antagonize any unions. It’s self-financing revenue enhancement that only affects bad drivers, body shops and the slimy ambulance chasers who advertise late at night on Channel 5. How about enforcing our traffic laws and collecting some fines?
Ever tried driving down Summer Street at rush hour? It’s more hazardous than the commute from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone. How about hiding a few radars along the route and ticketing that yuppie lawyer who changes lanes at 60 mph and rides up your tail in his Audi because he’s rushing to file a malpractice suit against a cosmetic surgeon for performing substandard liposuction?
The police could also conceal a few radar cars along the Merritt Parkway, where law-abiding citizens who drive the speed limit get passed like they’re going in reverse. Ever tried driving 55 mph in the right lane? The stockbrokers who whiz by in their BMWs glare at you like you’re wearing white after Labor Day.
What if we actually fined motorists who run red lights? Many local drivers speed up at a yellow light and don’t stop unless it’s been red for a really long time. These days, parents teaching their children to drive need to stress that, if they don’t want to wind up the hood ornament on a Cadillac Escalade, then they should make sure the light’s been green for at least three seconds before they start across an intersection. (It’s easy to estimate three seconds: That’s the time it takes three SUVs to cross the intersection while running a red light.)
Cameras synched up with stoplights are probably expensive. But mount one where Second Street runs into Bedford, and it’ll pay for itself in a week.
And how about Stamford drivers’ disrespect for stop signs? Ever since right-on-red went into effect, motorists have come to regard stop signs as worn-out speed bumps. Whether making a right turn or going straight, most drivers just slide on through, especially if they’re simultaneously narrating their activities into their cell phones.
I’d like to see the current $100 fine for cell phone use in a moving car increased to $1,000 … and how about enforcing it? In fact, a law that makes it a crime just to have a cell phone inside a car is okay by me.
I’m willing to relinquish a few Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure to designate Connecticut license plates as probable cause for searching suspect vehicles. I’m probably a lot more likely to be killed by a soccer mom driving an eight-ton Hummer while ordering her children’s Ritalin prescriptions over the phone than I am by a rabid Shi’ite wielding a bag filled with anthrax.
Besides, such measures would provide gainful employment. I’d love a job with the traffic court, handing out fines. And if Stamford’s school carpenter can settle for $156,000/year, so can I. Just call me “the hanging magistrate”— and throw me a little overtime.
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