Friday, October 21, 2011

More election season fun

I wrote last time about health insurance and the Salem city council. It was very timely, as a day later they were discussing the new MA municipal insurance reform law, which would give the city new powers in regard to changing employee benefits if they brought about certain savings. The way the law was written, the city has to elect to participate in the new law, which means that city council has to vote to approve it. They mayor has asked them to do so, but missed the filing deadline for the last meeting. It's pretty clear from the LARGE number of public employee union members in attendance at the meeting because of this issue that it will end up being a battle.

Several councilors have voiced support for this proposal in the past, with council actually passing a resolution urging the state to pass the law. That said, how do councilors not have a vested, conflict of interest in this issue? Let's be honest. Non-union city employees are not going to get better health insurance than the bargaining units. They'll either get the same or worse. Voting to allow this potentially has a direct negative impact on them. Of course, the first, easiest, no-harm to the people who work for the city full-time and should depend on it for health insurance reform would be to stop allowing city councilors to get their health insurance from the city. The savings on that alone is well in excess of $50,000. During the at-large candidates forum at the Moose Lodge earlier this week, seven of the 9 candidates mentioned healthcare costs as a top way the city can look to save money. (BTW, I was in the hospital still and couldn't attend, but Salem Patch did a live blog that was fantastic. Check it out here. Ignore candidate Barcikowski taking a beating in the comments below for actually having a position on something. It's nice that one of the candidates is willing to actually tell you where they stand on something. Lot's of wishy washy this go round.) I've just offered up $50,000 that doesn't hurt one full time employee. Will any councilor man up and offer that legislation? (Hint: Don't hold your breath.)

The hypocrisy we discussed the other day, where it's highly likely that those complaining the most bitterly about the city not being able to afford this thing, or that thing, apparently isn't exclusive to Ronan, Pinto, and Sosnowski in Salem. Over in Beverly, Elliot Margolis, who is Mr. Enough is Enough there, told the Salem News that if elected he will take health insurance from the city. This was right after he stated that if elected he'd tell city employees that their gravy train days were over. Margolis at least had the sense to say that because it is a part time job the health benefits should be reduced, as it doesn't make sense for a part timer on a 12k salary to get a 20k health benefit. So, on that, he's less disingenuous than the Salem three. How do they justify it?

Now I'm going to completely apply a double standard. Sue me. Jason Silva, the mayor's chief aide here in Salem, is running for councilor at-large in Beverly as well. In the same article he states that if elected he will not get health insurance from Beverly. First, I hope they elect him. I think he'd be good for them. Second, Jason, come on, man! Get your health insurance from them please. We already feed and clothe you, and in return, you pay taxes in Beverly. Let them foot the bill for your healthcare! You'd be a city councilor, it's your right!

Good night all. Time for more post-surgery prescription narcotics for me!

1 comment:

  1. As I've said in a couple of other forums, I don't have a problem with councillors taking city health insurance. Even if they do that, it's still not a high-paying job by any stretch and given the work that goes into it (as I've been learning) it's quite fair. I honestly don't know if I'll opt in or not if elected, but I certainly won't criticize my opponent for doing so. Taking a job on Council is a serious investment of time and energy (or at least it should be if you do it right).

    I do, however, completely endorse the idea of the city joining the state plan. It'll save money, regardless of whether councillors are on the plan or not. It'll also provide benefits generally the equal of what most bargaining has provided for unions and simplify administration. This is one of the layup opportunities to save the city some money.

    Also, I'm not sure if the rule has yet been changed or not - but Council service should not found towards pension years. I'm pretty sure at least at one point it did. The entire pension system has gone out of control and though it's probably too late to change it for people already in the system we need to figure out a way (defined contribution, anyone) to deal with it going forward.

    Other than that, enjoy the narcotics this weekend!


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