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My health care benefits other Important Matters

City council compensation - clearing the air.

Hello all, over the course of the past few months I have been maligned for taking the health care benefits that are an approved part of the city council compensation package. I have been severely misquoted by the Independent Newspaper, and now my family is being maligned. I have answered ALL direct questions and have answered all emails that have been sent to me on this matter yet sit “accused” of not answering the questions of one man who I have answered on countless occasions.

I have not blogged on this topic until this time as there was potential action on this matter coming before the city council and I did not want to prejudice any decisions or violate the Brown Act. I am here to set the record straight.

Medical benefits are a benefit of employment for the city council. Currently, the only provision available to the council if they want to elect benefits is to do so at city and taxpayer expense. I had no part in setting this system up, I did not vote this into existence. Currently, there is no provision to purchase benefits or I would have paid for them myself.

I am going to get a little personal here. I have worked with countless people who have lost their homes due to medical debt. Actually one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in this county is medical debt. Thus adequate insurance is important to me. I have a heart condition. My husband is a cancer survivor. As a family, health care insurance is very important to us.

To put the record straight, I have been on a personal quest to find employment that was full time yet afforded me the flexibility to continue to serve on the council. I changed positions in August and thus I no longer take the benefits offered by the city as I now have benefits through my employer. However, in looking forward, I do not want to delete the benefits for the council altogether. I find it very easy to look good in the public eye by eliminating a benefit for yourself that you do not need. I find it more difficult to stand up for what is right and at times, unpopular. 

At the city council meeting last week where this was discussed I brought up this issue. The "four council members are for removing benefits" as quoted in the Independent Newspaper is untrue and a gross misquote of what I said. Going forward, I want the seat of city council to be open to everyone not just those who are fortunate to have excellent retirement benefits or positions that offer them health care. I want the position open to all and the availability for benefits to be there for all. Now, let me put this clear, I do not intend this to be at the expense of you – the tax payer. I simply want a provision where city council members can purchase their insurance. As I stated, had this been an option for me when I joined the council, I would have happily paid for my benefits. Again, I did not make these policies but I and your other council members are working towards changing the policy for the future. 

Now on to the other issues. There has been much discussion about your “part time” or “volunteer” city council.  I do not see the council as either. To me “part time” infers a partial commitment to the city. I do not see the position that way.

Others refer to the council as “volunteers” I do not see it that way either. We are paid by the city of Livermore. Our pay is not a “stipend” it is a paycheck.

I see us as employees of the citizens of our town. We have responsibility the extends beyond the typical work day. We answer your emails, take your calls, attend various committee meetings and functions and have a commitment to the success of our city that extends beyond  a part time or volunteer commitment.

You may agree or disagree with me and that is ok. If you want to make a change for the future, let me know. If the council should be a volunteer position, lets have a committee discussion about it. Come to a meeting and make your voice heard.

Lastly, as much as I love Patch, this is not the place to contact your elected officials.  I do not read every page and every blog and thus often miss questions to me. I would assume this is true of all of your council members. If you have a question for me, please email me directly.

 

leturner@cityoflivermore.net

 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my musings.

 

Laureen Turner 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Christine October 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Dear Councilmember Turner: Are you going going to set the record straight with the Independent? Perhaps write a letter to their editor? Unfortunately the readers of the Independent are not necessarily the same as that of the Patch readers. Without your input, all they have to go off is from the Independent. I agree that you were misquoted by the Independent, as I watched the council meeting on TV. Please set the record straight.
Michael Delfino October 16, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Ms. Turner, I've said it before and I'll say it again, I commend both you and Mayor Marchand (who more and more is growing on me) for being a responsible public servant by coming on forums like these and being so diligent about responding to e-mails. It shows that you are genuinely interested in the community, and not simply having a title. I only wish all the council members would subscribe to that. I DO believe that online forums such as this can have a place for council members, mayors, etc. to be part of the community. There is a significant portion of the population (especially the younger crowd) that uses the internet as their sole source of news. To ignore that would be doing them a huge disservice. However, it's equally important to not "feed the trolls" as a common internet expression goes. As you stated, you have replied to that one individual numerous times. To keep giving him that attention only empowers him, and it's not like he's going to go away. I think stating your case here was great, and more council members should voice their thoughts on various matters in forums such as these. But yeah, getting into a prolonged argument only makes you look foolish.
Tom Ness October 17, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I too was oppossed to bart downtown and the planned downtown theater. But i loved the idea of the super walmart where my family could afford cheaper food.
Californicated1 October 20, 2012 at 05:55 AM
I am surprised nobody has posted this chart on this page until now: http://www.cityoflivermore.net/civicax/filebank/documents/3792/ This is the City Of Livermore Benefits Summary for Mayor and Councilmembers. I am sure all of this will be fodder for discussion, here.
RU11550 March 20, 2014 at 05:12 PM
Sounds like someone had a guilty conscious and decided to blog. How long do you have to serve in order to qualify for a pension again?

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