When I passed Charles as he sat on the bench, he always had a kind word for me. He kept his belongings organized. I admired his fortitude while enduring a life on the street. Charles made me feel grateful that I could return to a home with running water. –Janet Folsom, Gulfport
I enjoyed reading the article written by Jim Schnur titled “Kenneth’s Town”. It was well put together and accurate. Please extend my thanks to him. Thank you. –Kenneth D. Colen, Ocala (but yes, that Kenneth)
I thank readers for your concern regarding the cause of death recorded on my husband’s death certificate subsequent to his hospitalization for COVID pneumonia. I was finally able to speak with the physician who signed Larry’s death certificate. She gave me her reasons and, in this particular case, without going into details, I understand where she’s coming from. She understood my concern about underreporting COVID deaths, and said if I can get the medical examiner to let her change the death certificate she would be okay with adding COVID on one of the lines available for comments. —Maureen Kilroy, Gulfport
This Monday (Dec. 13) the deadline passed for candidates to submit their applications to run for three open positions: Mayor and two (of four) city council positions. Not one citizen applied and the incumbents will retain their seats for yet another cycle. This complete abandonment of resident participation is a crisis of epic proportions because our elected officials have immense importance in determining the future of Gulfport and how we as a city address and cope with the many 21st-century challenges that we face on a daily basis.
Believe it or not, some on city council actually believe no one chose to run against them because they are so very loved by the people. This undeserved hubris might make for great comedy but could not be further from the truth. I’ve conversed with many Gulfport citizens who have much to say (or rather, to groan) about their elected officials but at the same time have many amazing suggestions to improve this great city too. Indeed, Gulfport has a wealth of talented people with great vision and leadership experience.
Yet they choose not to run. The main reason that none of these qualified folks run is because city council pay is undeservedly low for such an important yet thankless position that is constantly tangling with impossible and dysfunctional local, county and state bureaucracy. Each council member earns only about $10,000 per year, which equates to only $200 per week and assuming about 20 working hours per week this means they’re earning a mere $10 per hour. The mayor earns only slightly more at the equivalent of $13/hr. This is in the bottom 10th percentile of city council pay in the nation yet we are by population in the 85th largest percentile against all other incorporated towns and cities within the US (most of which have less than 10k population) (here’s the link).
We’re paying our city council at or below yet minimum wage we expect the world out of them! We should not therefore be surprised when we’re met with disappointment when we ask our councilmembers to respond to neighborhood social and economic needs because we’re simply not paying enough to attract the right kind of candidates.
It’s so rare to see a working parent in council. But who can blame them? Why would a mom or dad juggling both a full-time job and family obligations want to take a pay cut to $10/hr? Not in a million years because sustaining a healthy family is their first priority no matter how inspired they may be in wanting to improve and better Gulfport. We also have many empty-nesters with a whole lifetime of business leadership experience who could be a great benefit to the city. But they need more than minimum wage to encourage them to participate because they know their value is worth more than the current pittance.
The bottom line is that an effective city council is hard – determining good strategy and overseeing the implementation is extremely challenging. To encourage the right of kind of people we need to pay them fairly. Other cities long ago have discovered this and progressed leaps and bounds as a result attracting the right kind of talent. But until we can accept that we need to pay more to see the progress we desire then we should be not be surprised if we find an element of truth to the old proverb, “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.” –Greg Simek