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In defense of city employees: Workers should come before money for chamber, museum, rec studies

Posted: December 11, 2013 - 4:07pm

As a card-carrying conservative who might well have taken pleasure in last week’s Homer News editorial casting a less than favorable eye on the health insurance package of city employees, I find that I do not. In fact, I see both a lack of appreciation for the pay scale of city employees and an uninformed opinion regarding public sector employment in Alaska. 

There is not a single Homer city employee that was lying drunk somewhere along some sidewalk and subsequently rehabilitated for a job in the city of Homer. Every single employee answered a media published advertisement for the job they are doing. 

None of them were primary determiners of the health insurance packages they received as part of the job. If the holier-than-thou private sector believes we should reduce the compensation of city employees to the level of subservient slave labor than by all means get on top and ride that crippled white horse.

The state of Alaska has by far the highest percentage per capita of public sector employment of any state in the union. Even before oil it did. But after Prudhoe Bay the state had a choice of whether to pass all the money out to us via Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend checks or create jobs that would sustain a far greater society. 

Homer is no different. We have gotten accustomed to strong public sector employment. It may be true that those jobs are better than working for a newspaper. 

But when did it become acceptable to tear down the pay and benefits of one group so another group didn’t have to feel inferior? 

Far more than most people around here, I know the faces, the names, and the jobs being done by Homer city employees. By and large they are superior civic citizens who have given every bit as much as any other local folks to the betterment of the community. 

If people want to feel some anger about the cost of city employee health care I suggest they take it up with legislators across the country and the associated health care industry folks — and not city employees. 

And, for what it’s worth, we should take care of our employees before one dime is spent — particularly on the Homer Chamber of Commerce, then the Pratt Museum, community schools, parks and recreation  studies, new public safety or harbor offices, and especially more public restrooms for people who can’t remember to pee before leaving home.

Mike Heimbuch is a former member of the Homer City Council and a lifelong Alaskan “with a strong interest in adversarial positions” he writes.

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Loves Homer
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Loves Homer 12/11/13 - 06:20 pm
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Thank You

Thank you Mr. Heimbuch for a well-written article. The City employees are some of the most dedicated, hard working employees and the community should be proud to have them working for the tax payers!

JackO
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JackO 12/11/13 - 09:53 pm
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Amen brother

Thanks for that Mike. The "I don't have any so why should they" camp is joining the race to the bottom instead of fighting for better lives for all of us. Coming from a conservative, this was a ray of hope.

LJ
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LJ 12/12/13 - 06:11 am
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too many employees

The fact is, Homer is much MUCH smaller than Soldotna and we have almost twice the city employees.

The very same people who complain we need to raise taxes on food to pay our bills have hired way too many people and in fact want to build a 15 million dollar new facility and will have even more employees.

We need to cut back on employees, starting with the city manager Walt Wrede. Fire him, then do an audit and we will see how much money the city really has.

What is the excuse for so many extraneous employees?

But I agree, if that they should stop wasting money on the Chamber of Commerce, they can pay their own way- TAKERS!

The Pratt Museum, maybe I would care but the fact is they have so much money they are planning to build a new one, already helped along with funding from the city, meanwhile we don't even have a Boys and Girls Club like every other city that cares about their citizens.

We need a new city council who puts people, the people of Homer as our priority, instead of tourists and the police state.

juggernaut
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juggernaut 12/12/13 - 06:41 am
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Mike

Hi Mike,do you have an email? Would like to send you an extended comment. Thanks

juggernaut
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juggernaut 12/12/13 - 08:41 am
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To the point

Hi Mike,
We'll written article. Homer city workers were enticed to accept a job offer that included a benefits and pay package the city deemed appropriate for the job.
To take away or reduce benefits, for the purpose of "redistribution of monies to other parties" is obscene at its best. It seems to be a popular theme in today's society--redistribution of wealth.
The employees did not hire on saying "great, I will take the job and you can start taking my pay and begin sharing with other people or charities".

Some people imply, if a city employee has $120 and a non-profit has $100 , take $10 from the worker and give to the non-profit--all will then be equal. Ridiculous !!!!!
I do take exception to your statement "holier-that-thou private sector". The private sector does in fact pay for the operation of the public sector. However, those complaining are typically recipients of the city handouts, not the actual business community. Private sector business faces the same dilemma as public sector. How do you compensate employees? There is a balance between pay and benefits and each business decides its own policy.

I should mention that this take away war has already started. In 2007 the borough took away the unlimited senior exemption saying we do not need it-redistribute those benefits to other people. Now on Jan 7 the borough is going to vote to remove the basic residential exemption from seniors under the same theory. Regardless of the fact that we built homes here under the promise of RE tax exemption when we turn 65.

I hope that you will support defeat of proposed Ordinance 2013-36 as it is very similar to your position on the city budget.

Good opinion piece and thank you

Loves Homer
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Loves Homer 12/12/13 - 08:21 am
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LJ please get your facts right.

Clearly you are listening to the uninformed community members and are not making your own decisions based on real facts. The City actually employs 103 regular full-time employees and 4 regular part-time employees. This information can be found on the City of Homer’s website. In addition, the City of Homer has a Port & Harbor and a Fire Department which Soldotna does not have. If you are going to make a comparison make sure you are comparing the same thing. You cannot put a round peg into a square hole.

foreign_observer
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foreign_observer 12/12/13 - 03:11 pm
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Good article

Very well-written and also what many hate to hear. Guess this is often the case, when the facts don't coincide with opinions. The City of Homer actually has to provide more services than Soldotna and this, using a smaller population base to "earn" money. Homer has a spending problem, not an income problem. Parity studies show that Homer is about average to below average on pay scales for skilled employees. If you don't believe that - check for yourself by trying to hire private sector skills at "City" pay rates. Last time I checked, at Seattle Refrigeration - the skilled tech's pay was over $50 per hour. And that was quite a while ago. Try to hire someone to work on your water & sewer system(that knows what they're doing), or your heating & airconditioning! You demand services? Expect to pay for them - or you can go back to "hauling water", outhouses and substandard harbor facilities. Guess you can go to the Museum though - if you can drive with the roads unplowed.

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