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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.

JoAnne October 14, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Thank you for your article. It is very much appreciated that you are able to see beyond something very personal to a bigger picture. There is a necessity of council and mayors purchasing all or a portion of their health insurance since they are enforcing negotiations where employees are being asked to pay for more of their health care….leadership by example is important. It is also important that no one including city council or the mayor suddenly lose their health insurance, which can as you pointed out have devastating financial consequences. Thank you for working for a solution that can be fairly implemented.
Tom Ness October 15, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Too many on our city council give too much weight to the Internet world. Many that write on here are not even residents. Most of your voter base does not stem from the patch. Laureen you have been doing a good job, don't listen to those that sit here and complain, most of those that do are miserable people that wouldn't do half of what you have done. Our council is not part time and actually does a lot of hard work in our community that most do not see. I don't think medical benefits is too much, the pay is not there, so I think that it is not out of line.
Rich Buckley October 15, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Laureen, I personally long to bring about the reality of public service taking on the characteristics of an open and transparent, all volunteer contribution, that when it rises to the level of a personal burden too heavy to carry, we set it down for a helpful other to pick up. The only thing I expect is the city to pay the light bill during council meetings. I discovered many years ago from a prominent local attorney, that stipends are so addictive they quickly become reclassified and locked-in as essentials.
Californicated1 October 15, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Isn't this how the scandal at Bell started out?
Laureen Turner October 15, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Thank you Tom and JoAnne, your support is much appreciated.
Darwinian Justice October 15, 2012 at 05:46 PM
"had this been an option for me when I joined the council, I would have happily paid for my benefits." That is the biggest load of "stuff". You can purchase your insurance on the open market now. It isn't cheap, but hey - my taxes aren't cheap either, and my taxes help pay for your insurance coverage. "Again, I did not make these policies but I and your other council members are working towards changing the policy for the future." Working towards? How about DO. The line above is a hedge, nothing more. And knock off the butt-hurt attitude. It reeks of annoyance, something you shouldn't be expressing to your constituency, even if you're right. The questions raised are legitimate.
Tom Ness October 15, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Point proven, yeah bell and this are so closely related right, give me a break.
Tom Ness October 15, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Too many important des ions and too much money is at stake for some part time hacks to have a go at the city. It's hard enough to get qualified people to run for council, yet a all volunteer council. Get real this is not Mayberry.
Rich Buckley October 15, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I find Mayberry has many ideals worth emulating regardless of the size of the town. They even loved their cantankerous old poop if I remember the cast of characters correctly. Not too much different from Livermore. We shouldn't need to motivate council persons with money to find people to serve.
Californicated1 October 15, 2012 at 11:40 PM
If Livermore is Mayberry, I would hate to see you try and pidgeonhole each and every character in this town, from the Mayor all the way to Otis, the town drunk. Heck, I might even be "Ernest T. Bass" as far as I know in this naïve depiction.
Californicated1 October 15, 2012 at 11:55 PM
No, "Nessie", not giving you a break on this one. There has been a lot wrong in Livermore city government for a long time, starting with the way it tried to get BART into downtown Livermore and sacrificing all the homes between Railroad and Portola to get trains downtown, even when both BART and the community as a whole were against it, not just us folks on the wrong side of Junction Avenue. There is just something wrong when a city government wants to basically tear apart its center to accomodate a foreign body that could forever change this place and turn it into yet another part of the Bay Area served by BART, and after a few years with BART service, those places all look the same. And before that was the issues over letting Wal-Mart set up a Wal-Mart Super out there in west Livermore out by Jack London and Isabel and voting that down, despite the fact that there is no grocery store out there serving them without either crossing a freeway, going to downtown or getting a store membership and buy in bulk. At least the city council got Verizon out there to change their plans about setting up a transmission tower at the Campo di Bocce place, which would have served more of the Pleasanton residents in Ruby Hill than it would have Livermore residents. So go back into your loch and swim in the murk, leaving us to wonder if you are either myth or reality.
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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