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Klaatu Returns to Planet Earth. Lands in Croton-on-Hudson Instead of Washington

April 27, 2007

We don’t hear much about UFOs these days, but after a visit from a mysterious interplanetary traveler recently, Crotonblog discovered that they do indeed exist. Visible marks left by his spacecraft can still be seen in the soft earth of the adjoining yard. Having traveled from a planet some 250 million miles away, he gave his name as Klaatu. He wanted to understand life in a small American suburban town, and had chosen Croton as the subject of his study. “I visited your planet once before to bring an anti-war message to the people of the Earth,” he told Crotonblog. “In fact they made a film in 1951 about that visit. It was called The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Tall, soft spoken and gracious, he bore a striking resemblance to British actor Michael Rennie who played the part of Klaatu in that film.

In the time he spent in Croton, Klaatu became fascinated by our village’s election practices. He was puzzled that each year in early spring its “friendly” citizens divide into two factions and proceed to hurl bitter insults at one other in a contest to govern this little community numbering less than eight thousand souls, most of whose males and many of its females desert the village each weekday to work elsewhere. He became a regular watcher of village board meetings on Channel 78 and on his own impressive portable computer, an advanced device like nothing seen on Earth.

Quite familiar with American culture, politics, history and even financial matters (TV, radio and telephone communications easily travel through outer space), he was surprised that remuneration for the posts board members seek, governance of the village, was a mere pittance. “I find it hard to imagine what kind of talent your village attracts when remuneration is at what elsewhere on your planet would be described as coolie wages,” he remarked. “An annual wage of $5,000 for the mayor and $3,000 for each of four trustees can only attract either dedicated self-sacrificing types, flagellant masochists or power-hungry individuals.”

When he learned that the actual day-to-day operation of the village is left to hired professionals, he pointed out that their super-generous pay and more than ample benefits far exceed any amount they might earn in the sharp-elbowed world of harsh, competitive business. Klaatu found it remarkable that, insulated from the struggle and strife they would have faced in the world outside, these employees are ensconced in their cushy jobs virtually for life, and only death or the most egregious acts of moral turpitude would cause them to be removed.

Klaatu was particularly intrigued by Croton’s 2007-08 budget of almost $16 million and particularly by its salary scale, which he termed “munificent.” He then proceeded to draw facts from his prodigious memory bank and pointed out to Crotonblog some eye-opening statistics. “Under your system of government in Croton, increases in salary and benefits are mandated by contracts with the various classes of employees. But did you know,” he asked, “that this tiny village has just given a 5% raise to the village manager and that he now earns $176,029?” Crotonblog stammered, “Well, no. Few of us in this village know this. It must be buried in the budget that was passed by the Republican majority.”

He continued, “And do you know that at $176,029, your village manager now makes more than the governors of 47 of the 50 states that comprise the United States? Only the governors of California, New York and Michigan make more than your village manager. For example, Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, whose salary is $179,000, earns only a measly $2,971 more than your Village Manager. Can you believe it? Mr. Spitzer earns a mere three grand, I believe you call it, more than your village manager for running a state with a population of 19 million and a budget of $120.6 billion. To use another expression that I picked up here, ‘Something’s badly out of whack.’ In the case of the Michigan governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, with a salary of $177,000, she makes only 971 bucks, as you call your dollars, more than your Richard Herbek for running a state with a population of 10 million and a budget of $43.4 billion.

“But, closer to home, the unkindest cut of all is this: For running the business of the tiny village of Croton, with a population of about 7,800 and a budget of under $16 million, Richard Herbek, the village manager, at $176,032 earns a salary larger than the Westchester County executive. Yes, more than Andy Spano, a veritable human dynamo who, for a mere $160,760, manages the entire county of Westchester, with its population edging close to a million and a budget of $1.7 billion.”

Klaatu went on, “Next, let’s look at the salaries of the village engineer and village treasurer, who each received a whopping 8.5% increase. Daniel O’Connor, the village engineer, and Abraham Zambrano, village treasurer, now earn $128,786 and $125,318 respectively. Did you know that they both take home more than the governors of 35 of the 50 states? In other words, these two guys individually earn more than the governors of 70% of the states of the United States. In addition, the village engineer has also been given an assistant engineer at a starting salary of $80,000—a nice bonus. And by the way, wasn’t Mr. Zambrano the architect of the phony water-bill scam that was written about in newspapers all across the United States, the one who angered and upset local residents with his unfeeling stupidity?”

“As for Ken Kraft, the superintendent of public works, who received a 5.5% increase, at a salary of $110,169, he now makes more than the governors of almost half of the 50 states—24 states, to be exact. What’s so incomprehensible about the increase given to Mr. Kraft,” Klaatu continued, “is that at the April 16th village board meeting at which the Democratic trustees declined to vote for the unreasonable increases in the fees charged for parking at the village’s parking lot, your Mayor Schmidt publicly berated Mr. Kraft. Mr. Schmidt unmercifully ripped him up one side and down the other for his failure to maintain the station parking lot, and placed the blame on him for the many complaints about deterioration of services voiced by parking lot users at the April 9th budget meeting.”

Klaatu put down the pencil he had been using to make his calculations and leaned back in his chair. “Frankly speaking,” he said, “in my estimation, the residents of Croton are paying too much for what they get. I do not understand how you people can survive fiscally with such largesse and why you put up with it.” He added, “Or how long you can survive without causing village citizens hard pressed by taxes to move elsewhere. Somebody has not been paying attention and has been ‘giving away the store,’ as one of your expressions has it.”

Klaatu suggested, “Perhaps the people are diverted by the meetings that are a sop to the people to give them the impression that this is democracy at work.” He himself had been fascinated by the spectacle of the semi-monthly meetings at which the five members govern the destinies of this little village. He noted that such meetings were usually poorly attended by village residents, although members of pressure groups with their own agendas could be counted upon to be in attendance and to be very vocal. He liked our description of them as “the usual suspects.”

“What you have in your village is the paradox of five people earning a total of $17,000 a year for their services directing the activities of four persons earning a total of well over a half million dollars annually, and whose salaries are augmented handsomely whether they performed well or not and whose jobs have turned into sinecures. It’s like a cozy little club of insiders looking out for one another. Funny thing, I thought Republicans were supposed to be in favor of reducing taxes.”

With that, he announced, “I regret that I must say goodbye and return to my own planet now. Heed well my warning about village finances.” We shook hands and said our farewells. Exhibiting surprising grace, he walked with long strides across the yard to the gleaming metallic spaceship. As he mounted the sloping ramp, Klaatu turned and winked at Crotonblog knowingly. He called out, with an attempt at an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent, “I’ll be back.” Then the ramp was drawn up and closed behind him. With a giant whoosh, his spacecraft lifted upwards and was gone.

On April 30, 2007 12:24 PM, Just The Facts said:

It is now perfectly clear to me why the Republicans (Alliance Party) ran on the Metro Enviro Site and nothing else. The following campaign platform would not be well received by the voting electorate:

1) We are going to raise parking rates yet again (for the second time in a row when and/if we get the majority).

2) We are going to give raises to our overpaid government managers.

I find it amazing that the only time that Schmidt and his crew go down to the lot is to campaign at election time. I know Schmidt doesn’t use the lot, nor does Brennan. If they did they would realize that there are many Croton tax payers who use that lot everyday who do not appreciate subsidizing their non-commuting neighbors tax bills. In fact, I say raise taxes as at least that is deductible (parking fees, like sewer fees are not). It truly urks me that they have the audacity to raise parking fees (and not put a dime into the maintenance of the lot) and then take that money to pay village staff which are already paid too much.

Lets face it our elected leaders are incompetent and running this village into the ground. The overpaid staff is completely useless and overpaid.

On April 30, 2007 9:18 AM, Devil's Advocate said:

TeaDrinker:

I have to admit you cleaned my clock on this issue. You are right.

On April 29, 2007 1:57 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Devil’s Advocate, by his own admission, operates a local business. My hunch is that in addition to having to do business with the Village Manager and Mayor, he also has a friendly relationship with them through the Chamber of Commerce. That may go a long way toward explaining his attempt to make an executive mansion and a jet plane part of a governor’s remuneration and throw sand in readers’ eyes.

Giant, drafty old houses and jet planes are not remuneration and not even perks. Remuneration means money, cash, currency, also called dough, moolah, gelt, long green, wampum, mazumah, scratch, or coin of the realm. An executive mansion may once have served a purpose for official entertaining. Today it is a way of keeping the governor close to the state capital, although not always successfully. The jet is simply to facilitate the governor’s movements and to ensure security. Who would expect Eliot Spitzer to get around the state by commercial aviation? And the Spitzer family will retain their New York City apartment and their farm in Dutchess County.

Take New York State’s Executive Mansion as an example—a big ugly 150-year-old Queen Anne pile cheek by jowl with huge parking lots and skyscraper state office buildings, and a stone’s throw from the highly industrialized west bank of the Hudson and its petroleum tank farms. Few governors have wanted to live there. Who would want to occupy living quarters through which visitor tours are regularly conducted? Who would want to live in a place so chock a bloc full of Victorian furniture and bricabrac it resembles the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Alternating with their estate at Hyde Park, Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt occupied the Executive Mansion because it was large enough to accommodate Eleanor’s preference for separate living post the Lucy Mercer affair. The Hugh Careys welcomed living in the Executive Mansion in Albany because it was large enough to absorb their twelve kids, who arrived by bus on moving-in day. Daughter Nancy Carey later described living in the Executive Mansion as akin to “living in a fishbowl.” During the twelve years of his tenure as New York’s governor, George Pataki flatly refused to move his family from Garrison to backwater Albany.

So much for trying to paint such amenities as salary augmentation. Who would consider living in Sacramento’s dreary winter rains and the intense summer heat of California’s Central Valley to be anything but torturous punishment?

State governors aside, compare Richard Herbek’s lot with that of Andy Spano. For actually running the larger and more complicated behemoth of Westchester County, Andy Spano gets $15,272 less a year than Richard Herbek does for doing the trustees’ bidding and executing their decisions in tiny Croton. Richard Herbek and Andy Spano are both supplied with automobiles and gasoline for their use, but Andy Spano at least lives in the county that pays his salary.

None of the four who shared the lavish spoils at the Croton Republican’s budgetary trough—Messrs. Richard Herbek, Dan O’Connor, Abraham Zambrano and Ken Kraft—live in the village that rewards them so bountifully. All were appointed rather then elected. Surely there are managers and bookkeepers among Croton’s population who could do the jobs they are doing. Perhaps the first requirement this village should institute is that anyone who accepts a top management job in Croton must move to this village within a year of their employment. At the formidable salaries Croton pays them and because their appointments to their positions are virtually for their lifetimes, they cannot use the excuse that Croton is too expensive a place in which to live.

Devil’s Advocate’s diversionary attempt to defend the giant salary gaps revealed between Croton’s salary scale and that of the governors of nation’s states inspired this writer to do some poking around on his own statistically. Try this on for size: At $176,032 the Village Manager, Richard Herbek, earns 2.67 times the median male income in Croton. which the latest census showed to be $65,938. If Dan O’Connor and Abraham Zambrano were to receive an 8.5% raise every year, their salaries would double in less than nine years.

I say bravo to Klaatu for being the sparkplug for this revealing article. And bravissimo to Crotonblog for throwing the spotlight of inquiry on this unjustifiable salary grab. Croton Republicans seem to have beaten the Bush administration at its own game of fleecing citizens.

On April 28, 2007 7:27 PM, Devil's Advocate said:

Klaatu:

Although you have made some valid observations, here on earth compensation has many components of which salary is only one component.

To my knowledge, the humanoid Rick Herbeck is not provided a mansion to live in or a private jet at his disposal as Governors do.



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