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