Councilman says city has ‘stacked the deck’ against blue-collar workers

Matt Algarin
Councilman Cyron Marler had hoped to keep funding in the city's budget for council health care, but was "disappointed" when his colleagues didn't agree.

As a self-described “blue-collar” worker, Cyron Marler says the city has “stacked the deck” against other residents in similar situations who might want to run for city council by not offering health insurance.

“You have pretty much said that you have to be of well-off means... basically, that sounds like Washington to me,” he said. “A lot of people are not able to afford, unless they have second jobs, to pay for a lot of insurance or a lot of medical care.”

Marler, a maintenance worker at Legenday, brought up the topic of city-funded healthcare while city leaders were discussing the FY2013 budget during their Sept. 17 meeting. Marler had asked city leaders to reconsider their decision to cut insurance funding from the upcoming budget, but they didn’t bite.

During similar discussions last year, Councilman Jim Bagby had suggested that the city “wean” themselves off the program of offering insurance coverage to elected officials and their families.

Under his proposal, current councilors who were receiving coverage would be grandfathered in, and they could continue the coverage until they either termed out or were not re-elected. Newly elected officials would not be entitled to receive coverage.

In 2011, the city spent $37,700 to cover the insurance costs for three councilmember’s who were enrolled.

Currently there are no elected officials receiving the healthcare benefit, according to Public Information Manager Doug Rainer.

Part of the debate circled around the insurance being viewed as taxpayer-funded compensation, which Marler says isn’t the case.

“When we did the insurance in 2004 or 2005, it wasn’t necessarily intended to be compensation,” the councilman said, describing it as a way for the city to say thank you for a sometimes “thankless job.”

Admittedly disappointed by the council’s lack of interest or action on the matter, Marler says he doesn’t plan to beat the topic to death, but he isn’t going to let the insurance debate fall under the rug. He told The Log that the best way to decide whether or not councilors should be eligible for healthcare benefits or not was to put it to a vote of the city’s residents via a referendum in 2014.

Before that could happen, Marler said the matter would have to go before the council and he would have to receive votes of approval from three of his colleagues.

“I’ll get with staff over the next year and see if we can put this to the voters,” he said. “If they say it’s compensation, then it’s compensation and it’s a done deal.”