Thursday, September 16, 2010

Workin' at the Y'

I have a bone to pick about a story published tonight (Thursday) in the online edition of the Houston Chronicle, taking a pot shot at the top executive of the YMCA of Greater Houston for being the highest paid CEO of any nonprofit human service organization in the country.

Even the headline is slanted, in my opinion: "YMCA Leader's Pay Tops Peers in U.S. ...Study: $700,000 is vastly more than income of other nonprofit execs"

Boy, doesn’t that just make your blood boil?
This guy’s earning $700k a year for running a Y (sarcasm).
That’s outrageous (more sarcasm).
Everybody knows the YMCA is a charity…it’s a non-profit…how can they pay a guy $700k a year to run it (sarcasm dripping onto the floor in pools)??

According to, a compensation study by Charity Navigator examined the CEO salaries of 3,000 mid- to large-sized charities. They determined the median salary of top leaders was $147,273 in 2008, which, by the way, in the depths of a recession, reflects a 4.7% increase over the previous year.

What does that tell you, when the economy has sputtered along at less than 3% growth, the average non-profit CEO’s income went up nearly 5%? 
Are you still as miffed?

And that’s the thing about median numbers: by definition, the number is in the middle of the pack. Certainly, there’s going to be SOMEONE earning top-dollar, just as there’s going to be some poor sap at the bottom of the heap.

There’s a very interesting passage on the first page of Charity Navigator’s report the Chronicle neglected to note in its story: “…these CEO’s are running multi-million dollar operations that endeavor to change the world. (underline emphasis is mine)

“Leading one of these charities requires an individual that possesses and understanding of the issues that are unique to the charity’s mission, as well as a high level of fundraising and management expertise.

“…it is important…to understand that since the average charity CEO [pay] runs roughly $150,000 a six-figure salary is not necessarily a sign of excessive pay for…a large sized charity.”

Clark Baker, who has led the Houston YMCA for eight years, earned $661,634 in 2008. The YMCA’s expenses that year were over $109-million.

Did that just hair-lip the governor?
The CEO of the Houston YMCA banked over $661-k?

So now the bleeding hearts are making hay about whether Baker is being paid too much to run a charity. One YMCA member quoted in the paper said Baker’s paycheck is an “obscene amount of money," …five times the median salary of men doing similar jobs at nonprofits.”

Well someplace, somewhere, some poor sap is making five-times less than the median salary. Where’s your bleeding heart concern for that sucker?

Our man Baker makes more than the CEOs of the YMCA of Greater New York and the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles. He also earns more than the CEO of the American Red Cross, the largest human services charity, with $3.4 billion in total expenses.

I am sick and tired of a disturbingly growing mentality that allows you to look at a report on median income and take pot shots at the guy on the right-end of the scale because he’s at the extreme end of the pay chart, and then say he’s making too much money.

How much is too much money?
Is $661K too much money to pay a guy who has run an organization  with 36 facilities, more than 300 programs and serves more than 700,000 people each year?

According to the Chronicle’s biased headline, Baker’s making about a dollar-per-person served. Is that too much??

You may recall earlier this year a group of Republican senators in Congress questioned the nearly $1 million salary of the top leader of the Boys & Girls Club of America, and refused to approve $425 million in federal funding for the organization.

Not the Houston YMCA
Compensation Committee
"You make too much money.
"You need to be punished."
Is that the American way?

I say don’t blame Clark Baker
Blame the Board of the Houston YMCA. 
Their executive compensation committee is responsible for reviewing Baker’s performance and setting his pay each year.

Here’s another galling point—buried deep, deep, deeply in the story is the only counter-weight to the premise Baker’s making too much dough working for the Y: “Despite Baker's huge salary, the YMCA is doing well financially, according to the charity watchdog, which has given the local organization four stars — the highest financial performance rating - over the past eight years. Its fundraising expenses are low, and it has a good level of working capital…”


Sounds to me like Clark Baker is worth his salt, and earning every penny he makes, working at the Y.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Freedom isn't Free

We just lived through a pretty somber weekend, marking the 9th anniversary of the cowardly attacks on civilized society by Islamic extremists.

Lauren's Garden, Market Square Park
If you were on hand for the dedication of the new Market Square Park garden in downtown Houston, you were moved by the significance of the dedication of Lauren’s Garden, named for Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, who was among the passengers who perished on United Airlines Flight 93.

I am dismayed that this year’s commemoration of 9/11 was marred by politicizing the event, and the turmoil over a fringe group of equally-extreme zealots hell-bent on burning copies of the Koran in protest, and act equally as cowardly, and blatantly hypocritical of the tenets of Christianity and the American ideals upon which this country was founded. 
Burning books is not what real Americans do.

In the midst of this mis-placed hypo-patriotism was a story that didn’t get much play, yet, ironically was reported on the same day most American’s respectfully mourned the loss of 2,996 innocents: A most-wanted drug trafficker from Texas, snagged by Mexican federales, decided to appeal to the United States system of justice, instead of facing judgment in Mexico.

He’s known as “La Barbie,” but he’s no doll, according to a Houston Chronicle story, responsible for some of the most heinous, bloody crimes in a turf war for control of the drug trade between Mexico and Texas.

Edgar Valdez Villareal was born in Laredo, and started his nefarious career selling pot in high school. With his Mexico drug connections, he rose through the ranks, beheading his enemies along the way. 
Who says marijuana is a victimless-drug?

Now Villareal would rather take his chances in America’s justice system than be left to the justice for which Mexico has become infamous. According to his attorney in Houston, Kent Schaeffer, “La Barbie” wants the same kind of deals other drug thugs have gotten: 
Plea bargains providing leniency in exchange for intel on his peers. 
According to the Chronicle story, such cases rarely go to trial.

In America citizens are guaranteed a trial by our peers
Perhaps that’s just the kind of justice Villareal deserves. 
In Mexico.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mexico = Columbia or Afghanistan?

This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton equated Mexico’s out of control drug-cartel epidemic to the violence of the ‘80s and ‘90s in Colombia. 
The Mexican government didn’t like that much...

In fact, according to the BBC, no Senior US official has ever made such comparisons. Perhaps Hillary is equipped with cojones under those pants suits, after all.

President Barack Obama, ever the political animal, disputed Secretary Clinton’s comments in an interview with “La Opinion,” a Spanish-language newspaper, telling the paper, “Mexico is an ample and progressive democracy, with a growing economy and because of that you can’t compare what is happening to Mexico with what happened in Colombia 20 years ago.”

Actually, both politicians are correct in their assessments, although for the POTUS to sugar coat the Secretary of State’s words, and thereby attempt to dilute the truth, bespeaks his lack of understanding of what is happening along the U.S./Mexican border.

I’ll go one further with my view that what is happening in Northern Mexico in terms of drug trafficking, human trafficking, mayhem and violence appears to be a mini-Afghanistan right in our own back yard. 
We ignore this at our peril.