Almanac

Viewpoint - February 13, 2013

Letter: Incentives can work for public employees, too

Editor:

In a Feb. 4 column, Daily Post editor Dave Price explains why his paper prints salaries of local government employees. The response that peaked my interest was his point: "If you own a business, you're entitled to know how much your workers are paid. Our local governments are owned by residents, and residents should take an interest in how they're run."

It is ironic that on the same day I read the article in the Post I read an article in Fortune magazine entitled "100 best companies to work for." The article listed a number of perks and incentives that these top companies provide to their employees in order to retain them and motivate them to be innovative. Incentives such as providing wellness centers, free yoga classes, encouraging employees to spend 10 percent of their time pursuing projects they're passionate about, and other creative ideas.

The number nine company on the list, NetApp of Sunnyvale, focuses on recognizing employees who are caught doing something right. So if residents are really the "owners" of local governments, should they not be taking the lead from these top companies by providing positive feedback about what they find right? Examples would be the ability to sleep at night due to excellent public safety, parks and recreation opportunities, libraries that provide positive alternatives for our youth and adults, and other public services we sometimes take for granted.

I don't disagree that pensions need to be controlled and budgets carefully monitored by all, but lets make sure we are looking at the big picture. Why is it so egregious for an engineer-manager who makes sure that our roads and bridges are properly built to earn $100,000 a year? I bet you could find situations in any of Fortune's top 100 companies that need improvement or even a group of employees who may be paid too much. But you will not find the owners of those companies focusing only on the negative because that will impact how their companies perform. They certainly will not sacrifice high production by skimping on appropriate compensation.

If you want better local government, then take ownership and provide positive feedback and support appropriate incentives to attract and retain the best public employees possible. Just look at the 100 top companies and see how they are performing and what they are doing to ensure they stay on top.

Glen Rojas, retired city manager of Menlo Park

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