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Too much money, or not enough

Wednesday’s City Council meeting was full of grist for the news mill. The one subject that had everybody’s attention, of course, was the resignation of David Tooley after 25 years as Madera’s city administrator, and the allegations that led to it. If you want to read about that, check out DJ Becker’s excellent story on the subject on Page A1 of this issue (Saturday, Dec. 16), or her story on Page A1 of Wednesday’s (Dec. 13) Tribune.

The one thing to keep in mind as you read these stories, however, is that Tooley was not accused of any crime.

Except one. In some people’s eyes, he apparently made too much money, at least when it comes to the financial sensitivities of a rural city in Central California. These folks like to see their public servants paid a little less, not a little more, than public servants in other cities.

There’s no particular logic behind that. It’s just that certain things make them uncomfortable.

These are the same people who might not mind actors or baseball pitchers earning 10 times what Tooley earned, which was in the neighborhood of $300,000, depending on whose figures one believes.

That’s the way things work, for some reason.

One thing you might not read about that occurred during that same meeting was the passing of the gavel for the chairmanship of the Madera Housing Authority from Council Member Charles Rigby to Council Member Will Oliver. City Council members serve as members of the Housing Authority Board, and the chairmanship is passed around annually.

Rigby was a fairly rare Housing Authority chair, in that he jumped right into the activities of the Housing Authority, trying to figure out how it worked and seeing whether he could make things better. As it turns out, he was successful on both counts. He helped Housing Agency Executive Director Linda Shaw improve the facilities and the services of the agency, and he tried to give the agency tenants a voice — these tenants often being at the mercy of the agency for a place to live and protect their families.

His last accomplishment was to help Shaw put together a way to use the city’s Pomona Ranch to provide housing for homeless families.

Pomona Ranch is a housing facility for field workers and their families, used mostly in the warm months of the year, and allowed to lie empty during the cold months. Shaw saw in those empty months a potential for providing housing for homeless families when there were no field workers to use it. She found grant money, and Rigby, using his many contacts in municipal government and among social service agencies, was able to put together a sort of consortium of services for the families who need the help.

The program is a model for the rest of California.

New chair Oliver, who spoke of Rigby’s accomplishments, said, “Charles has really taken a deep dive into the housing agency.”

That’s truth, and also well-earned praise.

By the way, Rigby, a minister in Madera, makes a whopping $500 a month for his service on the council.


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