I was a bit puzzled by Council President Mason’s explanation of her support for Timothy Occhipinti in her letter last week. Ms. Mason has the right to support whomever she wants, but her fixation on Michael Lenz’s acceptance of the city health benefits that are available to all council members does not jibe with her own past conduct on such matters.
Ms. Mason’s concern for Mr. Lenz’s acceptance of city health benefits was apparently great enough to prompt her to find ways to circumvent campaign-finance limits she once held as the centerpiece of her political career in order to funnel $13,400 to his opponent’s campaign. I’m just curious how she reconciles that with her reinstatement of her own council salary and benefits and back-pay request less than two years ago, which seemed reactionary against the public for not embracing her mayoral candidacy.
During Ms. Mason’s spring 2009 mayoral campaign, of which I was part, she frequently touted the fact that she was foregoing her councilperson’s salary and benefits as a display of sincere commitment to the community and the beleaguered budget. Yet within weeks of losing the election, she reinstated both her salary and benefits and even sought $8,816 of back pay. When I reminded her that she had held up the salary forfeiture as a selling point, she dismissed the notion, saying the public obviously didn’t care.
Mr. Lenz had never promised not to take city benefits. His decision to do so and receive a stipend for giving up the benefits from his county job may not have been the most politically astute move for a candidate facing a tough election, but it was not hypocritical. Ms. Mason, on the other hand, claimed to be nobly giving up salary and benefits on principle while running for mayor, then hypocritically reclaimed them once the election was over. And while her wheeling $13,400 beyond the $2,600 individual-contribution limit to Mr. Occhipinti’s campaign was apparently technically legal due to a loophole in the law, it was a legality of precisely the nudge, nudge, wink, wink sort that Ms. Mason once claimed to vehemently stand against, rendering herself a leading proponent and would-be perpetuator of the very political tactics those of us who once supported her thought we were helping to end.
I found Ms. Mason’s arguments to be wholly disingenuous. She did not facilitate campaign-finance reform, she neutered and scuttled it. And she did not wheel money to Mr. Occhipinti because she disagreed with a decision by Mr. Lenz that was benign compared with her own salary shenanigans. I believe she did it because she wanted to be council president and Tim was the swing vote to clinch her ambitions. Such false claims are insulting to people’s intelligence, and unfortunately the only transparency to be found under Ms. Mason’s council presidency is in her cynical rationalizations for bad government.