U.S./Dakota Conflict and county board salary raises.

    There is a new telling of the story of the 1862 U.S/Dakota Conflict that has been airing on public television this past week and I couldn’t resist watching it. The Past Is Alive Within Us: The U.S. – Dakota Conflict is a two hour program that opened with the familiar faces of  Upper Sioux Community members Judith Anywaush, her daughter Marisa Pigeon and granddaughter Naomi Pigeon. Later in the program Upper Sioux Community resident and native language talker Carrie Schomer appears as well.
    Much of this program is devoted to the aftermath of the tragic and terrible conflict, which by any account was one the most significant events in Minnesota’s history.
    It is an event that many of us have struggled to understand and struggled to heal from. There is much yet to be understood and much to be repaired.
    There are fascinating personalities and principles from that time on both sides and that’s one place to start. Equally important may be the common person’s experience from that time and in the years since then as we move forward as a diverse community. We have a lot to gain by building a greater understanding not only of those events in 1862 but also all the related events that have taken place since then.
    There is a lot to grasp but learning as much as we can will help.
    There are few communities that have to deal directly with the ramifications of such a terrible event. Granite Falls is one of those communities and while that may seem a challenge to some, it may be a real gift as well.

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    Most, if not all, county boards in the state meet during the last week of December to finish up business for the year. They also use that time to discuss and set pay rates and benefits for the county’s non-union employees and for the county’s elected officials for the next year.
    Those salary adjustments, which  go into effect January 1, often include the board members salaries as well. Some county boards don’t vote to raise their salaries and benefits but many county boards do and some of them seem to do it every year. Some county boards have split votes on giving themselves pay raises and some vote unanimously. Never-the-less, annual salary adjustments have become a bit of a tradition with most county boards.
    In most cases, the commissioners have voted themselves the same percentage raise that they also gave to the county’s other elected officials and to the appointed non-union employees. In the end, the adjustments really don’t cost the taxpayers all that much when compared to the county’s total budget for the year and often seem reasonable.
    I sure don’t have a problem with hard working folks getting a well-deserved pay raise. After all, everyone’s time is worth something. However, there seems to be a bit of a double standard for this in Minnesota. County commissioners can vote to give themselves a pay raise and it will go into effect almost immediately. That is something that city councils and state legislators cannot do.
    State law mandates that pay raises for city council members and elected state officials cannot take effect until after the next general election. For some reason or another, that law doesn’t seem to apply to county boards.     
    As I said before, I have no problem folks receiving a pay raise but it seems to me that there should be some consistency in the rules and that citizens deserve to have some say when it comes to elected officials voting for a salary increase for their positions.
    The law should be amended to make this a uniform practice. The same standard that city councils and the state legislators are made to follow should also be applicable to county boards. I think that all elected officials should have to wait for a pay adjustment until after the next general election when voters get a chance to express their opinion.      
    That only seems reasonable and fair to the public and ultimately, in the long run, to the officials themselves.