Just say no to benefits for council

Offering health benefits to part-time Warren City Council members is a costly endeavor that taxpayers should not be expected to fund.

An analysis of about a dozen Ohio cities conducted by the Tribune Chronicle last week showed only two offered health insurance to their part-time elected officials — Youngstown and Dublin.

The Tribune Chronicle comparison included looks at some nearby Mahoning Valley cities and others in Ohio of comparable size to Warren.

Findlay, one of the cities surveyed, previously had offered health insurance to council members but ended the practice in 2009 when the municipality was facing fiscal problems and was considering cuts to safety services.

Likewise, Warren previously offered health benefits to its council members, but the city also ceased the practice in 2003 when it faced fiscal problems.

The idea of offering health benefits to council members had been broached by Councilman Ken MacPherson, D-5th Ward, based on the premise that if an employee is providing good service, he or she should have an option of getting health insurance.

While that may be the case when it comes to employment, let’s not lose sight of the fact we are talking not about hired employees, but about officials elected by their constituents to act as public servants. One would assume that, as political candidates, these people all pulled their election petitions and ran their campaigns with their eyes wide open about the post’s expectations, its pay and benefits.

And at a time when one of the area’s largest employers — General Motors — plans to lay off more than 1,000 people in March, with ancillary auto suppliers following suit, and as many area retailers are announcing upcoming closures, Councilman Dan Sferra, D-at Large, is correct to say this is not the right time.

In fact, we doubt there ever will be a right time to make this move.

As we have argued many times in this space, the role of government is to provide essential services. From where we sit, the addition of new fringe benefits for elected officials does not fit the description of “essential services.”

The study also indicated Warren council members already are among the three highest-paid communities we surveyed — and also was among those surveyed communities with the highest number of council members.

This further proves that offering health insurance to part-time council members who already are paid well to represent their constituents is not the right thing to do.