EDITORIAL: Henderson sides with its citizens

The city of Henderson frequently gets it wrong, especially when it comes to openness. So it’s worth noting when the city gets it right.

It did so at Tuesday’s City Council meeting — not once, but twice. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Eric Hartley, the council voted against giving City Attorney Josh Reid a whopping 21 percent raise in a 3½-year contract extension, and it tabled until next month a vote on increased park and recreation fees. The Henderson residents who showed up for the meeting probably thought they were in the wrong place, seeing so much consideration for taxpayers in one night.

Mr. Reid makes $208,075 per year. Mr. Hartley noted the extension would have included an immediate pay raise of about $10,000 and 3 percent annual raises each year between 2016 and 2020, boosting his salary to $252,721. It was a tone-deaf proposal, to say the least. Many Henderson residents are still recovering from the Great Recession, getting by with zero percent raises, and facing the aforementioned increase in recreation fees to boot.

Mayor Andy Hafen, Mr. Hartley reported, said he wanted Mr. Reid’s pay to be reasonable — not the highest in the area, but not the lowest. But the proposal would have increased Mr. Reid’s salary to $218,000, higher than municipal attorneys in Clark County and Las Vegas, jurisdictions more than twice the size of Henderson. The council rightly recognized that there was no basis for such a generous increase and instead approved a one-time 3 percent bonus of more than $6,000 — a sum any household would be happy to have.

Earlier in the meeting, citizens provided more than 90 minutes of public comment to register their disapproval of a plan to raise the city’s park and recreation fees. That was telling, because Henderson City Council meetings are often quick, featuring little dissent among the mayor and council members and little input from the public. But lots of Henderson residents showed up because this proposal was going to hurt them, and the council listened, voting unanimously to hear a revised proposal July 7.

With regard to both Mr. Reid’s salary and the recreation fees, it’s not a matter of what’s “reasonable” or what comparable cities pay employees or charge residents for services; it’s a matter of what taxpayers can afford. It was good to see some recognition of that fact and to see the public, which could barely be bothered to vote in April’s municipal election, take a stand. Hopefully Tuesday’s moves indicate that Henderson’s elected officials are becoming more interested in serving the public interest instead of the government’s.

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