By: Anne Geggis
City commissioners’ heavy lifting will soon inspire some “help wanted” advertising.
Likely on the way out: unpaid legislative aides to help city commissioners do their work. Likely on the way in: paid, part-time “community engagement liaisons.”
The city commission agreed at a Monday workshop to have staff bring forward a motion to repeal the 1975 ordinance that limited legislative aides for commissioners to unpaid volunteers. Instead, if the consensus prevails, each commissioner will be entitled to a temporary, part-time helper who will work no more than 25 hours per week for $17.30 to $20 an hour – costing the city between $112,450 to $130,000 yearly.
Vice Mayor Debra Placko said it’s not that she needs someone to do her job.
“I’m not going to have someone answering my email,” she said. “I need someone to help enhance my performance to better serve my constituents.”
The issue came forward because commission members, particularly Commissioners Placko, Marlon Bolton and Mike Gelin said they don’t have the time to adequately respond to the needs of their constituents. The city commission currently has less help than some smaller cities in the area. The addition of the new community engagement liaisons will mean the commission has more support staff than larger cities such as Pembroke Pines and Pompano Beach, however.
Bolton said he wants help on special projects that he can summon as the need arises, rather than regular office support.
Mayor Michelle Gomez said, however, she is more concerned about the administrative support that exists in the office for the commission, rather than getting personal support. She said she’s received numerous complaints about no one in the commission office when the city’s one administrative assistant is out.
Commissioners agreed, also, that they should not rule out unpaid assistance in the form of student internships. Staff members said they will bring forward an internship program modeled on other cities’.
“It behooves us to reach out to young people and get them involved in government,” Placko said.
City officials said they could get people in place to work as these new community engagement liaisons in the next four to six weeks. Repeal of the current prohibition for paying commissioner assistants could be done at the next regular city commission meeting, City Manager Michael Cernech said. However, it was not the Wednesday’s agenda as of Monday night.