Knowing what enough meansSAM COOK: Classy, Don. And classy, Laura. That was the reaction that a lot of folks had when Duluth Mayor Don Ness, with his wife, Laura, at his side, announced at a news conference Tuesday that he would not accept the nearly $20,000 pay raise that the City Council had approved Monday night.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
And classy, Laura.
That was the reaction that a lot of folks had when Duluth Mayor Don Ness, with his wife, Laura, at his side, announced at a news conference Tuesday that he would not accept the nearly $20,000 pay raise that the City Council had approved Monday night.
It’s doubtful that many of us, offered the prospect of a 25 percent pay increase, would stay up most of the night trying to figure out how we felt about accepting it, as Ness said he did. He and Laura are raising three young children. Of course, they could have used the
increased income. Anyone who has tried to put kids through college lately knows how financially daunting that is.
I’m sure Don and Laura thought about that. But the mayor said he also thought about other families, whose kids were in school with his kids, trying to get by on what his proposed pay raise would be. That says a lot about the person that Ness is.
After his current term ends in 2016, and perhaps after an independent board looks at the mayor’s salary structure, Ness might want to accept a salary increase. He deserves one.
Don and Laura’s decision on Tuesday seems to get at the heart of this question: How much is enough? No matter what our station in life, the prevailing thought is that more would be better. A little more. Maybe a lot more. Then, we’d have it made.
So, what is the number? Would $40,000 do it for you? How about $60,000? Or do you need to win the lottery to find true happiness?
It’s easy to see how our values about money can be skewed when we spend our Sundays watching gifted athletes whose misdeeds on the field garner fines worth our annual incomes.
But along come Don and Laura saying, effectively, no thanks. Saying, given their values, that they have enough. That they wouldn’t “feel right” — those were the mayor’s words — accepting any more right now.
Without intending it, the mayor made each of us look inside and ask ourselves a hard question: What if that were me? What would I do? How much more do I need?
Certainly, in Duluth as across the country, a lot of families don’t have enough. A lot of people are working more than one job, trying to hold their families together and put food on the table. Those families truly need more, and it’s unlikely anyone is offering them 25 percent wage hikes.
But a lot of us in the middle of the heap are getting by. We drive older cars. We have to have some help getting the kids through college. We might not be traveling to Bali when we retire. But if we work hard, keep our expenses down and we save a little, we’ll make it.
And, like Laura Ness, we know what matters.
“We’re just thankful we have healthy and vibrant children,” she said at Tuesday’s press conference.
That’s the bottom line. Whether we choose to have kids or not, most of us just want those we love to be OK, keep learning and contribute something to the world.
Money helps. But it doesn’t buy a lot of what matters most.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ samcookoutdoors or on Facebook at “Sam Cook Outdoors.”