Time to work for a living

An open letter to the Honolulu City Council.

RE: The pay raise you are about to get

Dear Honolulu City Councilmember:

Although this may be early to declare, you will most likely receive a hefty (64%) pay increase for being a Councilmember on July 1, 2023.

Unless of course if you choose to listen to two of your colleagues and actually vote on rejecting the raises through resolution (reminder, they are Resolutions No. 23-81 and 23-82).

It’s highly unlikely (at this point) that those resolutions will be implemented under the current Chair’s leadership. Therefore, you can expect to receive the raises without any further delays or complications, full stop.

So onto a new subject: What happens next?

Well, outside of you getting the hefty pay raise for the purported job you do, you probably heard from several constituents telling you that, if you approved this, they would try to either recall or vote you out of office.

Let’s not pay attention to those negative voices. A friend on Facebook wisely pointed out that this controversy will likely be forgotten in just a few months. We all knew that from the start of this discussion. And the people of Oahu are well aware of this fact as well.

But, remember those phone calls that you got to reject the pay raise before the hearing? Well, I am here to tell you that the volume, and “candor” of people calling – most of them your constituents – is about to get much higher.

It’s common for people to expect that the quality of service they receive from an employee aligns with the salary they are paid for their job. This is why engaging in philosophical discussions with a store clerk while checking out is not typical.

Nor do you go to the DMV and expect the person behind the counter to immediately get into a conversation with you about how nuclear power works.

You get my point.

Iron Man in Avengers, Age of Ultron understood that there are times when you have to truly work for a living, and he and the Avengers came through. Will the City Council with a 64% raise rise to the job they are being paid to do now?
PC: “Iron Man Avengers Age of Ultron” by CineRecensione is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As you are now receiving a six-figure salary, surpassing even the earnings of your legislative aides and chiefs of staff, your constituents will expect more than just excellent service from your staff. With such a substantial income (surpassing that of many Oahu residents), constituents will look to you for direct communication when they reach out.

The same can be said about the Neighborhood Boards in your district. No longer are you going to be able to just assign your staff to attend and think that is enough representation – the boards and the residents that sit in those meetings are going to expect you to be there at every.single.one,

And don’t think you will be able to walk out after your report as you will be reminded that the people of Oahu pay good money for you to represent them and that you will need to hear every single thing that is going on in the meetings.

So you got the calls that you will have to take, the meetings you will have to sit in, and then the overall scrutiny of every single move that you make as a councilmember (whether it be voting, or you getting a DUI), every single action in your life is about to get amplified thanks to the fact that you earn, now, six figures for being a Councilmember.

How do I know what the volume of work will be for you and how much scrutiny you may face? It is because I did it when I worked at the City Council 19 years ago, give or take. With my boss (the council member) giving his staff good money (at the time) to represent him, we were all tasked with attending the meetings, taking the calls, listening to the abuse from constituents, and trying to resolve the issues that came up day after day.

Now at that time, everyone knew that the staff was the key to a Councilmember because they only worked part-time, got a low salary, and were there to represent the people. At the same time, their team did most of the leg work (yes, I still remember “RISR’s,” I did hundreds of them in the 4 and a half years I was a city councilmembers staff).

And while your staff can still file a “Request for Information and Service Report“, it is going to be you that will have to give the personal touch to the constituent, because again you are now earning real money, and it will be expected.

Despite their increased salary, I haven’t delved into the responsibilities of the Council Chair. It’s likely they’ll collaborate closely with the Mayor (who’s also receiving a raise) to ensure efficient train schedules, timely ambulance responses, repaired potholes on city streets, and well-maintained grass medians on various roads within the city. And again, if they don’t attain that level of efficiency, the constituents are going to wonder “Why are we paying so much money for councilmembers that are not receptive to our needs?”

So once again, while you may be getting a nice pay raise, keep in mind the wise words of Tony Stark in Avengers, Age of Ultron, of which I paraphrase, Councilmembers, time to work for a living.

And now you know what the work may entail, thanks to your pay increase.


/s/Stan Fichtman
Constituent, District 5, Honolulu City Council

Politics Hawaii with Stan Fichtman e-mailed every Councilmember this letter before publishing. Here is a photo of all of them from the City Council Website