We think the City Council's move back on Jan. 8 to send the salary adjustments for non-union city employees to Finance Committee for review was a wise decision, but hope that this won't become a hunt for ghosts in the darkness that aren't there.
To have the Finance Committee review the proposals is of course only acting in due diligence. But we're of the mind that in acting essentially as City Hall's manager, Mayor Richard Alcombright has the most advantageous perspective for determining where raises should be applied. We do, however, also believe that on a list of people who deserve a raise, the city's reserve police officers shine brightly. Often working at the most dangerous times of night, these people risk much to keep us safe. So, on to the Finance Committee this goes to scrutinize the details. We just hope the process does not become a witch hunt that turns employee against employee.
To us, the arguments on this matter are reminiscent of the debate over the city's tax classification shift at the Dec. 18 meeting of the council, where the mayor's proposal to lower the burden on the commercial side of the tax rate was vilified before its approval.
Both moves are very easy to paint as unpopular and ill-advised in an economic climate in which city residents find themselves struggling. However, both moves have merit and stand to benefit members of the city's middle class, the same group that opponents of both measures claim is hurt by them.
After all, who are most city employees if not noble members of the middle class? The ease of the burden off the commercial side of the tax rate is intended to help city business owners and engender growth and investment in the business sector.
Sure, there are larger corporate entities active in the city that stand to benefit from the tax shift. But is that unintended consequence reason enough to instead not do anything to help the small business owner who is in fact a member of the middle class?
Let's also remember that Dec. 18 brought a rare appearance by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, who supported the shift, as well as a letter of support from the North Adams Chamber of Commerce. We think this fact is telling. Maybe this gesture to the business community should have happened sooner.