Let’s see if we have this right.
Gila County wants to spend $90,000 to make sure it’s not underpaying its employees.
Really? We need to hire a consultant and pay him about what two sheriff’s deputies make to most likely provide a rationale to increase pay for county workers? Remember, we’ve only got about 52,000 taxpayers in Gila County these days — who support the sheriff’s department, the district attorney’s office, half a dozen county office holders and a substantial county bureaucracy — in a rural county without enough people to constitute a big Phoenix neighborhood.
This is why people get so riled up about government these days. Most of us can’t remember our last raise — but we’re not complaining, since we’re just happy to have a job in these hard times.
Mind you, the long-suffering taxpayers of Gila County already pay some of the highest property tax rates in the state, thanks to a rural economy that doesn’t generate a lot of sales tax to support public services — especially lately. We’re willing to pay the steep price of providing crucial public services — but a salary study? Followed by raises? When government workers in Gila County already make more than most of us — with better benefits? We’d much rather see the county petition the state for permission to get rid of all these mandated, expensive county jobs than to see some dog and pony show to justify raises.
But how can we decide how much to pay people without a study, say the county bureaucrats? Here’s an idea: Advertise a job. If you get plenty of qualified applicants — you’re paying enough. If no one applies, advertise the vacancy again — at a higher salary. Turns out, private enterprise does that all the time. You pay what the market will bear — and what qualified and needed applicants demand.
In the meantime, we think Gila County ought to cancel its $90,000 salary survey. And if the county really does have $90,000 to spare — think about cutting the property tax rate.
Payson slams the door
That’s essentially the response Payson offered when the Roundup asked to have a look at the state-required business plan filed by the people who want to operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Longhorn Road.
Town Attorney Tim Wright cited several exceptions to the state’s public records statutes to justify his refusal. Mostly, he said the dispensary owners have a right to keep their business plan private to avoid giving potentially competing businesses information that could hurt their business — although they have a state-provided monopoly in Northern Gila County.
After carefully considering his arguments, we say, “piffle.”
Certainly we don’t doubt Tim Wright’s sincerity in making the argument. We even see what he’s getting at — if we squint and stand on one foot. But in this case — as in most cases — the public’s right to know trumps the business’ desire to keep a tight lid on the information.
Roundup reporter Alexis Bechman talked to the state ombudsman’s office, which is charged with helping resolve disputes about public records and such. The ombudsman’s office concluded several of Wright’s arguments amounted to smoke and mirrors — but allowed as how a court might have to rule on the privacy issue — which falls into a gray area.
Please note — selling medical marijuana in its many forms raises all sorts of thorny issues. In other states, operators have abused the system — casting a shadow across the whole effort. Given those problems elsewhere, we would think Payson — and the state — would err on the side of full and complete disclosure.
We support the medical marijuana law, which won the narrow approval of the voters. We think it’s unconscionable to make people with grave illnesses who could gain real relief from medical marijuana risk arrest and worse to get the help they need.
Still, we also believe the system will work in the sunlight — grow lights in some locked basement just won’t do.
So we’re saddened that Payson’s first instinct has been to slam the filing cabinet and hide the key. That won’t help build trust — in either the dispensary or the town.