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The Smile High City

Denver's next mayor could be whistling in the dark.

Decades ago, about a third of the city's CSA employees received merit raises each year -- a minority presumably singled out because they actually did better jobs than the majority of the city workers. But last year, when CSA employees were already receiving a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase, 75 percent of those eligible also got merit raises -- most just over 4 percent.

That meant that in a city where the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development outlets are jammed with the unemployed -- people desperate for a job, any job -- the average city worker got a raise of almost 8 percent and was pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn't lose his job unless he did something really, really stupid. (By the way, John Oglesby's CSA parking position is still open.)

"It's never-never land," moaned one stunned committee member after doing a little math.

More stunning news: The 40 percent of the CSA employees who weren't eligible for a merit raise weren't eligible because they'd already reached the dizzying top of the city's pay scale.

"It's an unfortunate coincidence that the raise issue came at the same time the budget went down the tubes," acknowledged another bean-counting bureaucrat.

Unfortunate, yes, and so daunting that committee members reasoned there was really no way they could change the rules regarding elected officials' paltry raises without also taking a look at the big picture. The really big picture. The 10,000-person-plus CSA payroll that's eating up Denver's budget and could soon necessitate cuts in services while city employees take home raises that city residents only dream about -- even if the next round of CSA salary increases will be postponed by six months, in deference to the tough times.

"Most people in town have been happy to keep their jobs these past twelve months," says one Webb holdover. And in recognition of that very unhappy state of affairs, members of the current administration have decided to do a favor for members of the next: They're taking one last run at proposing revisions in the CSA system, calling all the interested parties together -- including the city's official change manager? -- to see if they can't come up with some solution other than dumping the entire mess on the new mayor.

Gallagher hasn't given up on his charter proposal, either. "We're in a budget shortfall," he says. "Have we noticed?"

From the conclusion of "Creating a Happy Zone":

We're surrounded by bad news. We make choices each minute regarding our responses to that bad news. We must be extremely vigilant to avoid falling into that easy downward spiral. Want to change your life? Want to make yourself and others happy? Check out the smile thing. It's magic. And there are no negative budget implications -- it's free.

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