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Rashad Young: The Right Civic Values for D.C.?

Rashad Young, hired at $245K and now paid $266,508 a year, is leaving as Alexandria’s city manager to become city administrator for D.C. In my hometown of 150,000, Mr. Young has been pulling down a bigger salary than that of Vice President Joe Biden, paid $230,700. Across the Potomac, Mr. Young’s compensation almost surely will be higher in the new job. Washington’s current administrator, Allen Y. Lew, was making $295K as of 2011.

I wish Mr. Young the best of luck helping Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser run the D.C. government, but I can’t resist raising the salary issue, and I fervently hope that the Washington media will follow up with questions for her.

The story in this case is about civic values. Annualized, the Alexandria city government’s total payments to Mr. Young with benefits and full car allowance included are around $350,000---just a little shy of the pitiful amount that Alexandria spends on books and other library content, far below the national average per capita. This issue extends beyond Alexandria. If the Washington Post or New York Times can do a national story on the inflated salaries of so many top city administrators in the context of municipal needs, such as those of K-12 kids and other library patrons, then so much the better. Based on Mr. Young’s priorities in Alexandria, I do not think his hiring in Washington is a very auspicious sign for D.C.

Across the country, while ordinary taxpayers scramble to pay everyday bill and localities cut back on even essential services, mayors and city councils have splurged on managers as if they were recruiting NBA players. Just in California, as of 2010, 16 managers were raking in more than $300,000 each. Their salaries, like Mr. Young’s, didn’t just surpass Mr. Biden’s. They also dwarfed those of U.S. senators and of even the best-paid members of the Senior Executive Service at the federal level. Alas, too many ‘crats in America’s local governments are 5’11” also-dribbles with Kobe Bryant-sized financial aspirations.

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