judging public sentiment last week by refusing to even consider
Councilman Perry Woodward’s motion to save $64,000 annually by
ending city-paid health benefits for elected officials.
1. They might as well collectively have said, ‘Do as we say, not as we do.’
The mayor and five City Council members made a grave error in judging public sentiment last week by refusing to even consider Councilman Perry Woodward’s motion to save $64,000 annually by ending city-paid health benefits for elected officials.
In the midst of painful city employee layoffs, protracted and difficult contract negotiations in which the city is asking for substantial concessions, Councilman Woodward’s motion died on the dais for lack of a second.
The deafening Council silence after the motion has now become, unfortunately for our struggling city, a rallying cry for the disenchanted. The mayor and the Council might as well have stood up in unison and shouted into the TV camera, “Do as we say, not as we do.”
In a time of economic chaos, when the city is asking for salary and benefit reductions, the mayor and most of the Council thumbed their collective noses at the notion that they should be party to that process.
2. Councilman Perry Woodward has promised to revisit the issue
It’s an issue that’s not going to go away. In fact, every expense related to the Council – from cell phone payments to conference fees to membership dues – will now be under microscopic scrutiny. That’s appropriate. There should be no sacred cows when the city is looking to spend every dollar wisely.
Councilman Woodward has promised to bring up the issue formally again. As a matter of principle, he should individually forego or donate his benefits regardless of what the other six decide.
Going forward, the Council should vote to end the practice of providing health benefits for themselves – permanently – and do likewise for future Councils. It’s not a matter of how hard they work, or any calculation that inevitably and rightfully ends up demonstrating how little each gets paid per hour of service. Running for mayor or a slot on the Gilroy City Council for pay or benefits is the wrong motivation. It’s a service position. Whoever doesn’t want the job without health benefits attached shouldn’t run.
3. Lip service or lead by example, that’s the choice before them
No other part-time city workers receive city-paid health benefits, and neither do, for example, planning commissioners.
A modest increase in stipends for all Council members would be acceptable. There’s no disputing it’s a tough job, especially lately, but the bottom line is the city does not and should not provide benefits for part-time employees.
There’s another aspect to this, of course, and that’s leadership. Council members can justify receiving health benefits six ways to Sunday. It simply does not matter.
Extremely generous health benefits for City Council members should not be a priority expenditure. That should be painfully obvious at this point. If it’s not, the Council is truly out of touch.
Hopefully, reality will dawn on those members who were unwilling to consider Councilman Woodward’s motion: As this city’s leaders it is not only incumbent upon them to share in the economic pain but to shoulder more of it and thus lead by example.
Anything short of that is just lip service.