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The Nose

Money Hungry

Posted 11/17/2004

Everybody wants a raise, right? Even the Baltimore City Council. So when Councilman Robert Curran (D-3rd District) introduced an ordinance on Nov. 8 that would up the council members’ salaries by 6 percent, one wouldn’t imagine that he’d get much of an argument, at least not from his colleagues. But at least one City Council member has spoken out against the raises Curran proposed, and the Nose was a little bit surprised by which member it was who objected: fellow 3rd District Democrat Kenneth Harris.

The ordinance would raise the next council’s yearly salaries from $48,000—a pretty nice chunk of change for what is technically a part-time job—to $50,800. Curran argues that, because only the outgoing council can raise the incoming council’s salary, this is the council’s last chance to get a raise for the next three years. It also would be council members’ first raise in five years.

But in these troubled times for Baltimore, not everyone thinks it’s the right time to pad the wallets of city officials. During last year’s primary campaign, Councilman Harris was painted by his challengers as a wealthy man out of touch with average citizens. As director of business services for Comcast, a full-time position with a hefty salary (although Harris says he doesn’t know exactly what that salary is), many were concerned that his full-time job didn’t leave enough time for his part-time one as a council member.

However, Harris was easily re-elected to represent the city’s new 4th District, and if his critics have painted him as money-hungry and out of touch, his stance on the salary hike doesn’t bear that out.

“I don’t support the raises,” Harris says. “I just think that, right now, the timing is not good. We’ve got some challenges. We’re still trying to support our school system in terms of budgetary concerns, and the other piece of it is that this past budget session we increased taxes that were passed on to the citizens of Baltimore.”

So maybe Harris isn’t as out of touch with the needs of Baltimoreans as his critics have suggested. Or maybe he just doesn’t need the money.

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