MIAMI - In my perfect world, teachers and police officers would be among the highest paid public employees. In my fantasy government (is that an oxymoron?), salaries and benefits for those who protect us and those who educate us would be so good that the competition for those jobs would be fierce.
Only the cream-of-the-crop candidates would get those coveted positions, besting scores of hopeful applicants. Thanks to their work and passion, South Florida would be the safest and most well-educated community.
The residents they serve would respect, support and appreciate their work because that would be South Florida's cultural norm.
In real-life, that is generally not the case. Not the salaries, not the benefits, and sadly, not the admiration and the appreciation.
For the past few weeks, we've been covering the conundrum Miami-Dade's Mayor, Commissioners and union bosses are trying to solve: how to pay to run a county with less money, having given residents the tax cut they clamored for. In its purest form, that may take the Judgment of Solomon. Now add finger-pointing, politicking, ultimatums and lines-in-the-sand.
The overarching question to every county resident is this: what do you want from your government? Safe streets? Regular garbage pick-up? Clean water? A cool baseball stadium? Plaques, pens and ceremonies?
What are fair salaries and benefits for those who work for you and get paid with your money?
In the last week, hundreds of people who work for Miami-Dade County suddenly lost their jobs. Among them are the county's newest police officers.
Sure, some police brass, even some officers decades on the job, make six-figure salaries. But most do not. Most take on the most dangerous job in the county for a salary hovering somewhere in the middle of the national average for big city cops. Yes, people choose to take that path, knowing the pay, the benefits and the risks. Still, it's hard to argue that those jobs really are different, because of weapons and the criminals who use them. That's what police officers are tasked to take on. Every day.
In my perfect world, educated, thoughtful, socially-conscious voters would steer money toward their collective priorities.
Officer Friendly and my childrens' teachers would all make $100,000 a year. On the other hand, Dwyane, Lebron, et al would each make $40,000. Plus benefits, of course.
Nothing personal. I just think safety and education are more important to my people than fun and games.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.