Please Don't Say 'I Pay Your Salary!' – Tips For Dealing With Local Government

Local governments: we depend on them for everything from trash pickup (sometimes) to parking enforcement and providing water and sewer services, but their workings are sort of invisible. We forget that they’re there until we need them. A few weeks ago, we put out a call for readers to share things that they wish the public knew about their jobs. K., an anonymous bureaucrat from somewhere in America, stepped forward with some tips for dealing with your local government. To start: don’t demand services the government doesn’t provide while also complaining that your taxes are too high.

Take it away, K:

Okay, you asked! Here are some tips for dealing with your local government.

1. Don’t be the same person who constantly complains about how high your taxes are and then demands that your municipality/county/state do something that is actually your responsibility. If there are too many birds in the tress by your house, call a wildlife organization. If your tree falls over, YOU have to clean it up. If it falls over across the road, the local government agency might come help open the road, but dealing with the tree is still your responsibility. If your sewer pipe across your front yard breaks, that’s also your problem. Likewise water pipes. If we took care of all those things for everyone, your taxes would be even higher. (A resident actually said to me, “I just know that it’s going to cost me money, and I don’t like it.”)

2. We don’t actually know everything that’s happening unless someone tells us. If your neighbor is putting out more trash cans than permitted and the trash haulers pick them up anyway, don’t call us and accuse us of corruption and being “on the take.” We don’t follow every trash truck around to watch. Bring issues to our attention and we’ll let you know if we can help.

3. Neighbors. If their barbecue smoke drifts your way, if their dog barks under your window, if they’re parking in your favorite spot, talk to them before involving someone else. If laws are being violated, call the police. If they’re just annoying, there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re not their mommies. Work it out.

4. Don’t assume that politics dictate every decision we make. A few bad apples make it hard for the rest of us, but most municipal officials and staff are actually hard-working, underpaid, caring individuals who go out at 3 a.m. in a blinding blizzard to plow open your road while you sleep so you can go to work in the morning or pave your street in 98-degree heat while you work in air-conditioned comfort.

5. Don’t say “I pay your salary.” It’s trite and offensive. Lots of people pay our salaries (such as they are, and many elected officials in this country work for free). If you’re looking for help with a problem, know that we’ll do our best, but we are constrained by laws and budget. If the guy down the street is a hoarder, it bothers us, too, but our options are limited. We don’t live in a police state and can’t just go in and clean the place out. Those laws can be maddening, but they also protect you from an overly intrusive government.

6. The occasional “attaboy” is more treasured than you can imagine. We really want to serve our residents. We don’t go into this business for the money, trust me.

We know that a lot of you have particular insights into jobs and businesses that most consumers don’t know much about — or about which they make huge assumptions. So if you feel like sharing your thoughts on what it’s like to work retail, or food service, or in the shipping, banking, hospitality fields (or something we failed to mention here), feel free to share your insights with us at tips@consumerist.com.

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  1. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    “…We don’t live in a police state and can’t just go in and clean the place out. Those laws can be maddening, but they also protect you from an overly intrusive government.”

    Just give it a few more years. We’re almost there.

    • SpeakR40Dead says:

      Some people wish we were already there… they are just waiting for someone else to “pay” for it.

      • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

        I’m thinking there just *might* be some middle ground between

        (1) ZOMG Big SOCIALIST Gubmint take care of us all!!11″ and

        (2) “Ayn Rand Thunderdome I got mine SCREW YOU” society.

        Castigating the motives of others in this very important debate, which affects us as “consumers” of the government product doesn’t advance the discussion, don’t you think?

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      Hyperbolic poster uses hyperbole?

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Your evidence being…?

      • Chuft-Captain says:

        I’d guess The PATRIOT Act, the DMCA, the NDAA, the repeated attempts to pass numerous measures along the lines of SOPA and PIPA both here in the US and as international acts that would subject US citizens to their rules…

        • AstroPig7 says:

          There will always be attempts to pass ridiculous measures like SOPA and PIPA, just because of human nature. That’s what the whole “eternal vigilance” thing is about. It’s also difficult to believe we’re heading for a police state when people have been saying it for decades.

          • Chuft-Captain says:

            The problem is when we kill SOPA and PIPA, and new versions crop up within a few weeks time.

            Also, as I said, PATRIOT, NDAA, and DMCA – all things that are already in place and which have severely, and relatively recently, as things go, curtailed our actual liberties and granted the government abilities very much in line with the concern of a police state.

            • AstroPig7 says:

              Hence “eternal vigilance&#148. Unless you change human nature, you will never rid us of regressive attempts to control information or the people.

      • dolemite says:

        Have you seen the laws concerning IP enforcement, authorization to assassinate American citizens, detain them indefinitely, monitor/store our web usage, illegally tap our phones, seize property, etc? Did you see any coverage of Occupy Wall Street? The power our government has granted itself since 9/11 probably has Ray Bradbury spinning in his grave.

    • impatientgirl says:

      A lot of cities can and will have the fire department and permits/inspections departments deal with hoarders.

  2. shepd says:

    Last dispute I had with local government, I ended the useless conversation with “I can’t wait to vote for this utility to be privatized”. They already know you’re paying their salary–but when they have to think about the gravy train ending, that’s when their day is ruined as well.

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      Yes. Privatization works well. Like when my municipality sold the public water system to Thames water. So much for the promised water bill savings (water rate tripled in 4 years), and service calls took twice as long to resolve.

      Or private prisons. Ones who buy public lands and buildings for pennies on the dollar, if not outright for free. Ones that want to negotiate a “90% occupancy rate”, or the government has to pay them a penalty.

      Anecdotal evidence, admittedly. I just wanted to counterpoint your mindset that privatization is a panacea.

      • shepd says:

        That’s not privatization, it’s a half-assed attempt at monopolization.

        There’s a HUGE difference between the two. It’s like how a dictatorship and democracy are both forms of government.

        Tell me the story again when any company can come in and lay water lines to your house.

        • darklighter says:

          Even if any company could come in and lay water lines to your house, it still wouldn’t be the free market price war you’re imagining. There would be huge barriers to entry (laying all those pipes), so you’d be lucky to have more than one water provider, and if you did have more than one provider, you’d probably actually have less efficient use of a pretty scarce public resource. Infrastructure is one of government’s biggest responsibilities; privatizing it rarely makes any sort of economic sense.

          • Lt. Coke says:

            Resources are an undercared for thing when it comes to privatization. The government HAS to keep track of water usage and electricity usage and so on – these are scarce, limited things. Corporations will use all the oil in the world to make cheap plastic shit in 5 years if they see money in it. It’s the governments job to say, ‘No, we need some of that oil for cars and power plants.’

            Oil isn’t the best example. Rare Earth elements would be a better one. The government (AFAIK) doesn’t regulate their usage, so we’re running out of some critical elements fast. As in, we’ll be fresh out of easily acquirable elements that are critical to make computer chips and so on. Think about how much of that gets wasted in landfills, and maybe the benefits of public resource management will show themselves to you.

    • Chmeeee says:

      The privately owned utility companies around here are much more poorly run than any government agency I’ve ever had the chance to deal with.

      • shepd says:

        Then why not use the government’s service?

        Or is there no competition?

        That might be privatization, but it’s privatization through cronyism–the worst form of government.

        • Chmeeee says:

          I have never heard of competition for utilities.

          Is AT&T an efficient organization? They at least have competition, still doesn’t do much for them. My town government is much better run and more responsive than AT&T.

        • Kitamura says:

          If the government privatized something, it’s usually because they wanted out, so they wouldn’t be operating the service anymore.

          Most things like utilities also have massive entry barrier which means that even on the free market, pricing rarely decreases.

          They deregulated power where I live (despite seeing how badly that went in California and everywhere else people have tried to do it), and all the touted benefits never happened, power prices jumped massively, virtually no new players entered the market, and they’re investigating collusion to raise power prices at key times now.

    • jenjenjen says:

      Ah the gravy train. The gravy train for the employees ends. The gravy train for the shareholders begins. Where does that money come from? You.

  3. MutantMonkey says:

    I do enjoy the logic behind that statement. Apparently all state and government funded employees are entrepreneurs.

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      Nope, they are not. They’re only human beings that deserve respect. Like you neighbors and friends–because they are your neighbors and friends.

      • MutantMonkey says:

        Completely agree, and my comment was a jab at the ridiculous comment, “I Pay Your Salary!”.

        • Velifer says:

          I worked for local government, and when I would hear that, my reply was “Yes, and so do 750,000 other people. Your contribution paid for the amount of time it took you to say that sentence and listen to this reply. Thank you. Now is there anything you’d like me to do with your neighbors’ tax money?”

  4. Torchwood says:

    I love how people complain, but how many of them make an effort to vote in the local elections? I had heard someplace that the participation in local elections is lower than in state and national elections. Yet, local elections have the most impact on people’s lives. Unless you live in Chicago or San Francisco.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    2. Shouldn’t the trash person be train on this?

    As for the trees, who owns the tree on the sidewalk?

  6. The Beer Baron says:

    I disagree! The assertion that I pay your salary is entirely correct when I am handing you a large envelope full of cash. What do you think my bribes are paying for if not efficiency and preferential treatment?

  7. CygnusTX says:

    1. Strawman.
    2. and 4. – it’s funny how “we” doesn’t include the folks out in the street for #2 when action is needed but “we” does include the folks out in the street for #4 when credit is wanted.
    5. We do pay your salaries and expect better than we’re getting.
    6. I rather doubt that anyone we, as citizens, deal with day-to-day went “into the business”. Rather, they stumbled there.

    Just sayin’.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      1. How can this be a strawman when it isn’t even an argument?

      5. It’s still a dickish thing to say just because someone isn’t getting their way. (Obviously this does not apply when the civil servant is at fault.)

    • Crackpot says:

      Friends don’t let friends just say. You’re making an ass out of yourself.

      Just sa… well, you know the rest.

    • Rachacha says:

      You have to recognize that many government employees will actually agree with you that a certain law or policy is stupid/out of date, but unfortunately, that is the law and they don’t have the power to change the law. If they are good, they will refer you to the person/office that has the power to change the law so you can complain to them about the stupid law.

      When I worked for government, there was a common complaint that we received several calls on every year. Unfortunately, the group that I worked for did not have jurisdiction over that law even though it was a law we had to follow. I personally agreed that the law was stupid, but I could never say the law was stupid. All I could do is recommend that the caller complain to the agency that had jurisdiction over the law in the hope that they would change it.

  8. Sarek says:

    Cognitive dissonance – My taxes are too high, and why doesn’t the government do everything for me?

  9. Abradax says:

    If I paid my local taxes, I’d be paying your salary!

  10. Scrutinizer says:

    I was elected to the Board of Finance in my town. People told us often that they paid our salary, we would then point out we were volunteers. Just a few weeks ago I had a guy complain about the increase in property taxes and demanding we make cuts. A week later he was back demanding we put in free electric car charging station because he wanted to buy an electric car.

    • scoosdad says:

      I have several close relatives who serve as unpaid elected officials or volunteers on local government boards. That has to be one of the most thankless ‘jobs’ on the planet and I’m in awe that most of them don’t quit immediately, from the stories I hear from them.

      All the nut-cases come out of the woodwork, like this guy demanding the charging stations. That’s one reason why local access cable coverage of our town board meetings are so fascinating sometimes.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Can’t you print your own version of Berkshire Bucks,
      install the electric car charging station, then declare bankruptcy?

  11. Frank The Tank says:

    Public servant here.

    I agree with this.

    If you are talking to me, I will help you. The second you tell me “I pay your salary” I will usually curse at you and walk away. I don’t have to put up with that and I will NOT put up with that.

    My “salary” is for about a 1/10 of what I do. The rest I do to keep my office running. They have laid off over half of our workforce. I have whole departments cut down to ONE employee.

    CygnusTX: We do pay your salaries and expect better than we’re getting.

    Seriously? When was the last time you were down at any local government office? Attitudes like that are just ignorant and small minded. If I can’t help someone in my office it’s one of the following:

    1) I’m legally bound and not allowed to
    2) It’s something not done in my office
    3) It’s an absurd request. (No – I can’t just “cross off” your husband’s name off of the deed)

    Most fall under (3).

    As I said – most of my departments have been hit hard. Less people, same (or more) work, same pay. When your insinuating “well I pay your salary” you have absolutely no clue. Think of how often that statement is said – and the request is utterly absurd. In case you’ve never been in this position – it’s around 98% of the time.

    • CygnusTX says:

      I’ve been there enough to justify my assertion. If you are truthful about your attitude, then you are delusional if you think you represent the majority.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Do you have evidence that isn’t anecdotal? Just based on the number of posters who apparently don’t agree with you, your experience seems to be in the minority.

      • jebarringer says:

        “you are delusional if you think you represent the majority.”
        Yet, somehow you think your attitude / experience represents the majority…

      • kcvaliant says:

        Since you are on the in, explain to what happens to money. If there is a tax increase, you are laying off ppeople. Where does the money go?

        My only complaint on local governments is paying the roadcrews outrageous wages for crap work and shoddy materials that will have to be replaced in 2 years.

        • Rachacha says:

          While each jurisdiction is different, here are some possible causes:

          Governments are large, and cover a lot of areas, trash collectors (in some areas), road crews, mechanics to maintain government vehicles, teachers and school staff, school bus drivers, building/safety inspectors as well as those who work in government offices handling tax records, deeds, licenses (marriage, business, drivers) and tons of other government services. Don’t forget about your first responders/fire/police either.

          Often times budgets are cut in one area but increased in others to address the needs of the jurisdiction (perhaps due to a surge in students you need to hire some additional teachers or bus drivers, so to balance the budget, you don’t backfill a position when a county health inspector retires).

          Other times your costs simply increase. Lets say that a county has 500 vehicles it needs to operate and maintain (Police cruisers, fire trucks, school busses etc.) For years they have had the same 500 vehicles driving the same number of miles every year, therefore the budget should remain flat right? Perhaps, except gas prices have gone from $1.75 to $3.50 per gallon in the past 5 years meaning that the line item for fuel budget has doubled in the past 5 years. Perhaps you could compensate for this by reducing the number of vehicles (and staff) on the road, but you probably also need to increase taxes to cover the gap.

          Granted, these are just a few examples, but I think you get the idea that every day things that you just roll into your personal budget become HUGE budget issues when you scale them to a local or federal government scale.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      Also everyone on the public take (schoolteachers, civil servants) have to deal with anything that walks in the door. Elected officials usually have a buffer. All the crappiness of retail with BCBS to deaden the blow a bit (counterbalanced by the repayment of student loans).

      • ChuckECheese says:

        Thank you for so concisely explaining my situation. I work for a State-funded but private managed care company doing QM – I inspect nursing facilities. I deal with front line staff constantly and have no buffer. My fellow citizens present frequent challenges to sanity. I do not have BCBS, but an employer self-funded HDHP.

    • Czechmark says:

      I’ve received a lot of funny comments from people who really don’t understand what it is I do. Part of my job has been examining vehicles coming from our neighbour to the south to verify declarations. (Yes, customs). The ‘I pay your salary’ comment was answered with ‘Then you are expecting me to do my job properly, so please get out of the car’. There is also the classic ‘The U.S. constitution says I have a right against illegal search and seizure’ and the answer to that is ‘Well, (sir or madam) you’re not in the United States anymore, sorry the Consititution doesn’t apply here’. I’ve had many friends of the Prime Minister insist that I should stop inspecting their vehicle, or they would call their buddy on Parliament Hill. Of course, I encouraged them to do so, as I had never spoken to the PM and would like to and I’m certain he would want me to do my job properly as well. And the all time funny one was when a person, smoking a marijuana cigarette, tried to hand me money. I refused to accept their money and they had the shock of their life when I advised them they were entering Canada and not paying a toll on the New Jersey Turnpike. Yes, they were very lost. In most cases, patience, humour and a good ear have kept me in good relations with my clients. That said, it is much more difficult now to find the time to be patient let alone listen when overworked and understaffed. I am hoping that a lot of good people read this article and take the time to be patient with their overworked public servants.

      • dangermike says:

        Most of that is reasonable, however I take offense to “‘The U.S. constitution says I have a right against illegal search and seizure’ and the answer to that is ‘Well, (sir or madam) you’re not in the United States anymore, sorry the Consititution doesn’t apply here’” to level that I think this statement should cost your job. The Bill of Rights was omitted from the Constitution intially because the rights it guarantees are *natural* rights. That is, it is evident to any rational person that the entirety of humanity is endowed with those rights. It is not the Constitution that creates those right, but rather simply states them as being protected. While it is true that those rights might be violated in areas not under the protection of the US Constitution, to do so glibly under the authority of the US Government is nothing short of moral terpitude. It is an affront to the dignity of all of humanity. Perhaps a more legitimate alternative would be to say something to point out that the search being conducted is not illegal (if and only if it is not, of course), and provides grounds by which to justify it.

        • VintageLydia says:

          Read Czechmark’s comment again. I believe they actually work for the CANADIAN Government. So to say the US Constitution does not apply there would be 100% factually accurate.

          • dangermike says:

            Indeed. So just read “Bill of Rights” as “Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” The same argument stands.

            I have no intention of arguing the jurisdictional limits of the laws of nations, but rather to point out that the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights (and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well) are *natural rights* not endowed by any state but by the dignity of human existence.

        • trencherman says:

          Of course this applies to the U.S. as well as Canada and most of the world. Your car (or suit case, or purse) can be searched by the U.S. customs, upon entry into the U.S. It has happened randomly to me as I walked back into Texas from Mexico.

          Customs has nothing to do with “illegal search and seizure.”

    • Cerne says:

      If you do truly curse at and walk away from people who (rightly) point out you work them, then you deserve to be fired.

    • Bob A Dobalina says:

      “The second you tell me “I pay your salary” I will usually curse at you and walk away. I don’t have to put up with that and I will NOT put up with that.”

      “3) It’s an absurd request” IN YOUR JUDGEMENT

      this is exactly the attitude that makes us hate public servants. you feel you owe the tax payers nothing and that you alone can decide what you do and don’t give the people who do in fact pay your salary

      you are a public servant. the public hired you. you work for us and have the same obligations that any worker has to their employer

      • AstroPig7 says:

        For someone posting on a consumer advocate site, you seem to have an incredibly entitled attitude (you know, the sort of thing that gives consumers a bad name). If you’re rude to someone, what reason do they have to provide you with decent service? You’ve assumed government employees are trash before you’ve even met them, so what makes you think you won’t be treated like an abusive jerk when you do encounter them?

      • exconsumer says:

        That makes no sense whatsoever. The fact that you pay taxes does not and never gives you the right to personally command someone who works for the city or state, any more than a shareholder would have the right to barge into starbucks and demand that an employee act contrary to policy.

        These people have bosses who have bosses who YOU elected. If not you than a majority of your peers. They set the policy, the public servant executes it. They do not, and cannot, in the interest of democracy, bend to your personal whims.

      • Rachacha says:

        When I worked for the government I would often receive calls from individuals spouting hate speech against different races, religions, and sexual preferences that did not at all pertain to my area of work or the work of my agency. I would politely ask him if there was an issue in my area that I could assist him with to which they would respond “Are you a butt f&^#%ng ni^@er?” at which point I would respond “have a nice day” and simply hang up. As a public servant, am I supposed to listen to hate speech and abuse which is taking me away from performing the services that I was hired to do? Sure, the person who called (if he was a law abiding citizen) was paying a portion of my salary, but that did not entitle him to waste my time or spew hate speech at me.

    • portwineboy says:

      You forgot

      4) You told me you pay my salary (which is true) and I got mad, cursed at you (which isn’t nice) and walked away. You are correct, you don’t have to put up with it. The private sector awaits! Good Luck!

  12. Budala says:

    That was sent in by the mayor of what town?

  13. Applekid says:

    Fucking LOL
    “Don’t say ‘I pay your salary.’” Yeah, that’s trite and offensive. Yet the line right before talks about how they’re paving my street while I’m working in comfort. Like many muni workers, they think they’re entitled to a different set of rules to everyone else.

    • cameronl says:

      Wanting a little respect is “entitled to a different set of rules to everyone else?”

      • Applekid says:

        Well how about a little respect that it’s OUR street, in OUR community, being paved in the first place because we elected officials who realize that it’s good for our community?

        This is right up there with it’s the customer’s fault we screwed up.

      • daemonaquila says:

        Yes, if the respect isn’t earned. True story:
        1. Without any warning, all neighborhood roads leading to a highway on-ramp are blocked for “construction” that doesn’t commence for 5 more weeks.
        2. The detour for this massive debacle takes 30 minutes to drive, passing over the same highway twice, where the original drive took 5 minutes or less.
        3. Once detoured cars finally made it to the exit, a sign had been erected prohibiting all left turns – the ONLY way to get onto the on-ramp on the 1-way street.
        4. No less than 3 cop cars were parked at that intersection to joyfully hand out tickets. They had about 5-6 cars stopped at once… while across the street and in their full view the local drug dealers were doing business with impunity, as were the hookers.

        So no, everyone involved in that fiasco didn’t deserve one ounce of respect, and there WERE operating on a different set of rules than constituents. I had a way to get to some of the city hall powers that be (and city hall media), and used it. That crap ended the next day. And don’t even get me started on the time a city employee clumsily tried to shake me down for a bribe.

        By the way, I worked for the government at the time. Been there, done that, worked my butt off, and learned that half my colleagues were actual servants of the people, and the other half were scum.

  14. catskyfire says:

    On a technical level, yes, you might pay my salary. Here’s a penny. That’s your share back. You can keep the change.

    It’s a stupid thing to say because it always means the same thing. “You aren’t doing what I want you to do, in the way I want it done.” We aren’t issued magic wands. Even if there is something we can do, we can’t do it instantly. We have rules and procedures (just like any business). And we have to consider the ‘larger picture’. Something that’s problematic for one citizen is unfortunate, but something that’s problematic for a hundred citizens will have priority.

    • lettucefactory says:

      Not to mention, everybody pays everybody’s salary. Every transaction you make helps pay someone’s salary. If I go to Target and buy some pants, Target has overhead built into the cost of those pants.

      I get it that people feel frustrated – if they don’t like the customer service at Target, they can just buy their pants elsewhere. But it’s obviously a much bigger hassle to pick up and move if you don’t like the local civil servants. People have a right to be dissatisfied with their local government services. “I pay your salary” is just a foolish way to express that emotion.

    • Bob A Dobalina says:

      so you can justify your rudeness and lack of competence based on what proportion of your pay each taxpayer provides. you should work for Comcast

      I am thinking the amount of taxes I pay each year is more than you make. So hop to and quit make me wait while you flirt with Debbie the moderately attractive office slut

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Those are some nice assumptions you have there. Do you know catskyfire? Have you ever dealt with them in a professional context? Do you also believe ethnic and religious stereotypes?

      • The Beer Baron says:

        I say, my good man, if you pay more in taxes than catskyfire makes in a year, then you clearly need to find a new accountant.

  15. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I have to say, my township crew is awesome. When it snows, the roads are plowed, and much better than the state road they’re not allowed to touch (nope, we have to wait for PennDOT to get around to it). I always make sure to let the supervisors know what a good job they do.

    If I notice there are tree limbs down, and I’m able to move them, I’ll shove them off to the side and let someone know. That’s what a lot of us do. There’s no magical tree limb fairy that tells the road crew that we have limbs down after a storm.

  16. cameronl says:

    “I pay your salary” ranks right up there with, “Do you know who I am?” in getting you dismissed as a douchebag.

    • RandomHookup says:

      So I’m guessing “Do you know who I am? I pay your salary!” isn’t going to help much either.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Exactly. Whether its true or not, it’s just common sense not to say “I pay your salary,” like its common sense not to curse at a CSR, even if they’re being an idiot. Maybe not exactly like, but close enough.

  17. dush says:

    Govt starts taking more and more money to provide more and more services.
    People start feeling more and more entitled and demanding.

    • exconsumer says:

      What country do you live in? Taxes have been falling like a rock since the 60s in the US and are low compared to most other countries.

  18. iesika says:

    I used to live in Louisiana. After a bad hurricane, when the city’s tree trucks would finally get to our little street (five houses on it, so not a priority compared to hospitals, highways, schools, etc), my family would always give the guys a case of cold beer or soda – not a bribe, but a gift of appreciation for how hard they’d been working.

    To all the angry posters, try being without any public services for a few weeks. Live off the water from your bathtub and toilet tank for a while, and you’ll be damned happy to see the water guys working on the side of the road. If you’re a grown up, you’ll even understand why your neighborhood didn’t get services restored first.

    There are bums and weasels in every job, but most people just go to work, do their job, and if they’re lucky, get a paycheck.

  19. Cerne says:

    Living in Toronto and having municipal staff that are overpaid, over entitled and whiny almost across the board I find K’s attitude missing one key element. “I pay your salary” is trite, but it’s also true. Too many civil servants treat the public as an annoyance that interferes with their actual job. The idea of customer service seems entirely lacking in the public sector.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      I think the idea of customer service is lacking in society overall, whether its people giving poor customer service, corporations that set stupid policies, or the people receiving customer service who expect more than they should receive… No one seems to know what reasonable expectations are anymore.

  20. Bob A Dobalina says:

    We “are actually hard-working, underpaid, caring individuals who ” is the same thing you hear from DMV clerks. postal employees, flight attendants, the guys that leave the highway torn up for months- basically anyone who interfaces and feels they can be rude because a union contract or government mandate protects their job.

    Guess what? You no better than the rest of us shlubs who have to do things we don’t like to keep our jobs

    Maybe if public servants understood that the taxpayers do write their paychecks, they would be more productive and less jerklike

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Ah, so if two people use the same reply, then they’re both lazy jackoffs, even if one of them isn’t rude and actually does their job. I understand now!

      Have you considered taking a course in logic?

      • wombats lives in [redacted] says:

        If only you knew the things I’ve made Bob do to keep his job… You too would cry alone at night.

    • PeriMedic says:

      But I, as a public servant, also pay taxes…so I guess I write my own paycheck. Hmmm. So if I don’t do what you as a taxpayer wants me to do, I am instead doing what I as a taxpayer wants me to do, so I am still pleasing a taxpayer and fulfilling my obligation.

      And that is one reason why “I pay your salary” is a stupid statement.

  21. NorthAlabama says:

    the op needs a new job, and fast. they are burned out completely, and do not need to be placed in contact with the general public.

    if you have medical insurance, look to see if any counseling is covered. if it is, make use of the benefits before you leave. hope you like your new job.

    • ltsupervisor says:

      Not at all. I work in local government and could have written this, but I love my job. We get to make a difference in our communities. This is aimed toward the very small percentage who can make our lives miserable because they think their issues are the only ones that count. I have an employee who regularly goes above and beyond to help people, but treat him rudely and you’ll get the minimum required response. It’s that simple.

  22. wombats lives in [redacted] says:

    BURNS
    We don’t have to be adversaries, Homer. We both want a fair union contract.

    HOMER
    (thinking) Why is Mr. Burns being so nice to me?

    BURNS
    And if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

    HOMER
    (thinking) Wait a minute. Is he coming onto me?

    BURNS
    I mean, if I should slip something into your pocket, what’s the harm?

    HOMER
    (thinking) Oh my God! He is coming onto me!

    BURNS
    After all, negotiations make strange bedfellows. (winks)

    HOMER
    (thinking) Aah! (aloud) Sorry, Mr. Burns, but I don’t go in for these backdoor shenanigans. Sure, I’m flattered, maybe even a little curious, but the answer is no!

  23. racermd says:

    I need to put out a little disclaimer here, particularly about this:

    “If your tree falls over, YOU have to clean it up. If it falls over across the road, the local government agency might come help open the road, but dealing with the tree is still your responsibility. If your sewer pipe across your front yard breaks, that’s also your problem. Likewise water pipes.”

    Not every municipality works the same way. For instance, where I live, if a utility in the easement fails, the city takes care of it. Same with downed trees that exist in the easement. If they exist fully within my property line and beyond the easement, I’m fully responsible for it.

  24. craftman says:

    I think it’s a little trite for government employees [or really any employee, in general] to call themselves “underpaid”.

    If you voluntarily show up every day for the pay you receive, you are being paid the correct amount.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      I think there might be a little duress involved in this, considering the fact that it isn’t easy to get a new job. They may actually be underpaid, but something is better than nothing.

      • craftman says:

        I will concede that that is a valid case if you took the job and then your pay was cut after the fact.

        But at some point your pay could be cut so low that you would rather quit or take a completely different job, so the cost of “current job” vs. “new/no job” eventually evens out, I think people just estimate it a lot higher than it actually is.

        • AstroPig7 says:

          What if you took the low-paying job because it was the best you could find?

        • VintageLydia says:

          You’re also assuming finding a new job would be quick and easy. Especially if you just quit because you feel like you’re underpaid, you won’t qualify for UI benefits so it’s even MORE of a risk.

          • Coleoptera Girl says:

            It would be much more logical to keep the underpaying job while you look for a new job… which still means you’re underpaid, for the time being.

    • dchs says:

      Actually that is incorrect because the value of the salary when you accept the job is eventually going to be less due to inflation. So in order to have the same value, your salary would have to at least increase by the percent that the yearly inflation level is at.

      So if you don’t get annual increases, you are in fact getting a pay cut and you are not getting the same purchasing power as when you started. Remember money is only a tool and represents the debt that the company/government owes you.

  25. Linguist208 says:

    You pay my salary? And just how do you do that? Ah, your taxes. The same taxes that *I* pay, too.

    What, you thought the government just reached into the big tax-money bag and handed me some of your cash when something needed to be done? Did you think I don’t have to pay taxes? My job is a JOB, just like yours. I pay taxes to the feds, the state, the county, and the city, at the same rates as you do.

    So I pay my OWN damn salary.

  26. exconsumer says:

    ‘But I DO pay your salary cause I pay Taxes!!!!’

    And it does not entitle you to boss around any public servant. Ever.

    We live in a democracy, which means that we decide what to do based on votes. We elect a person and that person then tells the government structure what to do. That means whoever we elect gets to set the policy and manage the money. They get to tell the public employee what to do and what not to do. Not you. You never had, and should never have, the right to tell a public employee to do something other than what the democratic process determined was his or her job.

    So save the power trip.

  27. momoftwokids says:

    On the other hand, sometimes reasonable requests to the local government are refused because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

    Case in point, parking is allowed only on one side of our street (east side) and the city insists it can only plow the street heading northbound, thus plowing cars in every time they come by in the winter (and sometimes our snow banks can be approaching 6 feet high during a bad winter).

    “Because its the way we have always done it” they can’t reverse the route, plow southbound and dump all the snow in people’s parkways where they don’t have to dig to get their cars out each morning???

  28. radio1 says:

    I work for local government at the state level.

    I also have a job that can impact people’s heath directly, so I may, maybe, get slightly more respect than say a DMV/RMV worker. But I can’t tell you how aggravating and disheartening it is to have people who cop that attitude while I am trying to help them.

    Here’s a popular theorem at my work, ‘No one thinks of X until it hits home…’ — X can be whatever real or perceived problem you may have. Working for local government is like working for customer service. The same rules will apply.

    1) Be courteous and explain your problem clearly.
    2) Try not to supercede even more local resources before moving up the hierarchy; they may be able to help you even better than I can.
    3) Do not say, “I pay your salary…” That will not get you anywhere. Why? Because I am a taxpayer as well, therefore I pay just as much a share of my salary as anyone else does.

    Follow those three rules, and I will be happy to assist you to the best of my abilities and available resources. If you don’t, well I still do my best but only be ‘professional’ about it.

    Also, please check your assumptions at the door about: how much we make, what benefits we have, how much motivation we have and whether we can make it in the private sector.

  29. Jay911 says:

    The best experience I ever had with an “I pay your salary” response was when someone told me that on a fire scene – while I was a _volunteer_ firefighter.

    I like the “then give me a raise!” response too for other times.

    • PeriMedic says:

      While taking one ill homeless man to the hospital in the medic unit, his friend was regaling me with details of his tick bites. I told him that when we arrived, he should see the doctor, too, to make sure he did not contract Lime Disease.

      He replied that no, he would wait until later and call 911 so I could come out again to take him to the hospital; that would give me job security.

      I said, “You realize that we are all volunteers in this city? Go see the doctor.”