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Friday, March 25, 2011

Yellow

Sensationalism: subject matter, language or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions or to excite and please vulgar taste.

Yellow journalism: reporting that presents little or no legitimate news and relies instead on eye-catching headlines to sell information.

Surely you’ve all seen the tabloids -- or rags, as they are often called, because they are only fit to scrub the dung off our shoes -- in the supermarket check-out stands. Headlines blaze with salacious details of the lives of notable individuals in our society. Often, there is the tiniest shred of truth to the story, but the headline definitely pumps that up. When one actually reads the article, it’s clear that there is very little substance to the story, and often nothing close to the level of information the headline promised.

And sometimes it's just a downright lie.

A handout given to some attendees of the most recent community engagement sessions reminds me a lot of the supermarket tabloids. I’d credit the author, but there isn’t anyone claiming authorship. I was told it came from some representatives of the Troy Citizens United, but that cannot be verified because the person handing it out wouldn’t answer definitively.

(Which begs the question: if one cannot claim ownership and will not cite sources, how can we be expected to support the information or believe the numbers presented on that sheet??)

Anyhow…one of the most oft repeated complaints from this group relates to our city manager and his salary…and his pension/retirement package from his FIRST stint as our city manager.

If you’ve just joined us, John Szerlag was the City Manager for Troy…retired with a pension/benefits…and was re-hired again WITHOUT added benefits at a lower salary than any other City Manager would have to have been paid. Then, when times got tough, he took a pay cut. THEN…since times are TOUGHER…he’s taking ANOTHER pay cut that is DOUBLE the one he already took.

TCU won’t tell you those details.

Instead, they’ll add up what he earns annually from his pension (THAT HE DESERVES FOR THE WORK HE PERFORMED) and what he earns annually from his salary (THAT HE EARNS BY DOING HIS JOB) and whine REPEATEDLY that Mr. Szerlag’s total compensation is astronomical. They will try to tell you that his retirement benefits could pay for the now defunct Troy Daze and median grass cutting – as though the city is just spending that money capriciously. They will compare Mr. Szerlag’s total pension and salary earnings to the Governor’s base salary (with no mention of Gov. Snyder's additional housing, transportation, travel and other costs) and try to claim that it’s absurd that Mr. Szerlag collects what is owed him.

Remember…Mr. Szerlag EARNED that pension with years of service…the City of Troy IS OBLIGATED BY LAW to pay that pension no matter who currently holds the City Manager job. Any other city manager would have been hired in at a higher rate, with a full benefits package, and with an additional retirement package.

ANY OTHER CITY MANAGER WOULD COST THE CITY SUBSTANTIALLY MORE than Mr. Szerlag costs the city.

Sensationalism and yellow journalism..there is no other name for the game being played here. It’s unethical, it’s immoral, it’s despicable…and it’s unacceptable. I'm not sure it's even fit for scrubbing dung.

So, like so many of us do in the supermarket check-outs…look if you must at the train-wreck of a publicity scam the TCU is pulling.

Then walk away, shaking your head in disgusted dismay at the irresponsible waste of the paper on which it’s printed.

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