By C.J. Barbre

Ed Murray said he was surprised when the city asked for his Social Security number.

He didn't know back when he started serving on the Lindsay City Council eight years go, that councilmembers even got paid a stipend, a whole $50 a month. Popular go-getter that he is, Murray was elected to serve as mayor when former Mayor Valeriano Saucedo was named superior court judge in June 2001. This came with a 50 percent pay hike, all the way up to $75 per month.

As mayor, Murray represents the city as chairman of the Health Care Advisory Committee, serves on the Lindsay Recreation Authority, and is chairman of the Lindsay Redevelopment Agency (LRA), all unpaid responsibilities. He also puts in an appearance at most all major and some minor city events, to which he sometimes adds significant flavor by racing his GEM car or riding his Harley.

"I do it because of love of community. I want to give back," said the 30-year resident outside the Sept. 14 city council meeting. He noted that school board members get health insurance valued at $7,000 for their participation on the board, and hospital board members $200 per month, which generally involves only one hour-long meeting. The LRA gets zip.

The Curts alleged that, generally speaking, redevelopment board members get 6 percent from the redevelopment bond as a bonding agency; council members "get rich" by participating in redevelopment; that they get to split the commission on the redevelopment bond for cash.

In a later phone interview Murray said, "They sound like we're a bunch of crooks. I can't imagine that being on a redevelopment agency would allow you to get a commission for selling property. To me that would be a direct conflict of interest. I have a very difficult time believing that's true." Murray said such allegations could be verging on slander. "If you are on the verge of accusing people of illegal acts - if that's the case - you'd better be careful," he said, also generally speaking.

Murray said what really bothered him was that, "We are trying so hard to make Lindsay a great place to live. I would like to sit down and talk with them." He said he was trying to understand where the Curts were coming from because, "Every time there has been an issue, they're the first group against everything." He said they were very vocal against the school bond issue, which passed, and the prison issue, which failed.

Meanwhile Murray said he and other council members were going to the California League of Cities Conference at their own expense. The 106th annual conference, themed "United We Win," held at the Long Beach Convention Center Sept. 17-20 was to be attended by 1,600 city officials throughout the state. Participants were to take part in sessions covering city finance, housing, homeland security, ethics, environmental justice and a range of other issues.

It's all just part of making Lindsay the best place it can be.

Murray said it was hard for him to imagine people taking advantage of situations, taking advantage of others at any level. "I'm just naive, I trust people," he said. "It's just the way I am."

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