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

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.