"Hello, Mr. Robinson?"

"Yes.""How are you tonight, sir?"

"Fine."

"Good. And we hope you stay that way. Mr. Robinson, we want to thank you for supporting the (fill in the blank - Fraternal Order of Police, Professional Firefighters of Utah, Weber County Deputy Sheriffs Association, etc.) last year and know we can count on your support again this year.

"And as always, we want to give you something in return for that support. In May we're sponsoring a concert at the Huntsman Center featuring Paul Revere and the Raiders. You've probably heard of 'em, a great oldies rock band. And Mr. Robinson, for only $30 you and another family member can attend, or if for some reason you're unable to go, we'll give your tickets to others to enjoy the concert. Your donation and others like it will enable us to serve you and your neighbors better. Mr. Robinson, may we count on your support?"

Anybody not gotten a call like that?

I've never gone to a concert or another common event, a circus, these various organizations sponsor. I hope others have enjoyed my tickets.

I don't like getting these annual pitches for funds and I'm sure the various organizations dislike soliciting them.

I used to be puzzled as to why those involved in law enforcement and other public service agencies had to revert to elementary school PTA-type drives for cash. I now know why - they don't get enough from their city or county.

In fact, the way we treat these public servants, some of whom may be called on to put their lives on the line for us, is pretty appalling.

The Deseret News recently had a story about the city of South Jordan and its firefighters. The firefighters are concerned about their rate of pay. They should be - it ranges from $19,890 to $28,851. Actually, that's a good wage - for the 1950s. In the 1990s that kind of earning power means they have to take another job or two, usually at low pay, to support their families. When they're not fighting fires or preparing to do so, they're battling the budget. The time away from home obviously does wonders for their family life.

Jim Judd, who represents firefighters statewide as president of the Professional Firefighters of Utah, is finally able to concentrate on his main profession for all of his income. For 20 years he had to have side jobs "in order to provide for my family." During one lengthy stretch he was working 56 hours a week as a firefighter and 32 hours a week in other jobs. "Some of my children didn't know their father very well," he lamented.

It has always fascinated me that we'll spend millions, even billions of dollars on things - I-15 reconstruction, light rail, Salt Palace renovation, etc. - without much thought. If there are cost overruns, as there often are, the extra funds are always made available. But when it comes to our most precious commodity, people, we balk at a 50 cents-an-hour raise.

"It would be nice if we didn't have to go out and beg for money," Judd said, in order to better train employees.

The various organizations wouldn't have to go the phone solicitation route if they had enough money in their budgets from the municipalities that govern them.

Firefighters and police officers are entitled to a decent, livable wage. That may not include enough money to buy a boat or take a European vacation each year, but it surely means being paid enough to not qualify for subsidized housing and food stamps.

Life is about priorities. City and county elected bodies and officials need to make respectable wages for firefighters and law enforcement personnel a top priority.

Ultimately, all of the money comes from taxpayers. That includes the money for roads as well as employees. I'd rather more of my taxes go to pay people than to build things. If that's not possible and the choice is between raising taxes or having our public servants beg for money, then raise taxes.