The latest contribution of the Altman's to Longmeadow's political discussion is about the salaries of various managerial staff working for the town. Mr. Altman is alarmed that these folks, like the Town Manager, the Finance Director, and the DPW Director, have received raises in recent years that exceed what he considers fair and prudent in these tough economic times.
The logic of his argument is clear enough. There is no question that our town should seek to hold down costs, including salaries, in tough economic times. However, there are some aspects of Mr. Altman's presentation that compel me to add some context to this issue. First, he does not seem mindful of the marketplace as it related to the professionals whose salaries he thinks exorbitant. Though the town is not a "for-profit" entity, it has no immunity from market forces. We have to pay what it costs for quality materials, services, and people.
Leaving aside any personal evaluations, the positions he referenced are held by people who can, and have every right to, keep an eye on the larger market for their services. They have marketable skills and experience that gives them leverage in salary negotiations. If the town refused to give such professionals more that the 2-3% Mr. Altman suggests is appropriate, we would be hiring new people for one or another of these crucial managerial jobs annually, which would be both costly and counter-productive. We would become a stepping stone for the least experienced and least qualified candidates for such jobs, who would use us to gain experience and increase their market value - so they could go elsewhere and earn more.
Though I don't always agree with the Altman's, their willingness to contribute their time and opinions to our community is very commendable. When I was running for School Committee they were just names in the paper, usually writing things with which I disagreed. Happily, I have since had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the Altman's on a number of occasions. Though we probably don't agree any more often now, we do have an improved understanding of each other. What Longmeadow needs is more people like the Altmans, willing to debate and argue about important community issues face to face, where it is harder to be rude and impossible to escape accountability for one's views.
LongmeadowBuzz adds value to our community's public square by providing a vehicle for residents to share their views responsibly and openly. It is my hope that this virtual public square will encourage more folks to participate in the political life of Longmeadow online and in elections, town meetings, and public forums.