Growing up, I had two great political role models in my family. My Uncle Ermine Venuto was a city and county party chair, while my Uncle Murphy Pitarresi was a two time city councilman. From both of these men, I learned that serving the city is not a job, it’s a calling. You have to do what’s best for the interests of the residents, not what serves only a few.
This means sometimes making tough choices.
This means being able to discern between what’s best for the common good and what represents a personal benefit.
Here is a perfect example of a choice I know I would make as a council member.
During the recent debate, one of the questions the council candidates were asked was regarding the health insurance opt out payments offered to part-time elected officials. Other candidates shared their opinions about whether or not it was their place to decide if a fellow council member should receive it. From the get-go, my response to this question has been steadfastly NO. My reasoning is as follows.
As you know, council members do receive a stipend for serving. During the last eight years, in addition to this stipend, part time council members have also received health insurance opt out payments if they chose not to accept the health insurance coverage offered. These costs add close to $50K a year to the city’s budget. This is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers in a city in which the council just voted to raise taxes.
This is an unneeded perk during a period of austerity. Consider this: The current board is made up of two school teachers, one water board employee, one hospital employee, and one retired veteran. Each of these members has health care, the majority of whom are receiving it from entities for which city taxpayers are also charged (school tax and water and sewer tax).
In other words, we’re paying for their benefits twice.
Let’s think about this. There are people in this city who work two or more jobs to make ends meet. They have to work extraordinarily hard to pay their own health insurance premiums, often with significantly less coverage. Right now, many people are receiving their enrollment forms for next year and their premiums have risen drastically. Can we really justify allowing part-time elected officials to receive opt out payments when so many others have to struggle to pay for their primary coverage? Can we still say this is OK when most part-time employees are ineligible for health care benefits?
The answer is no. This is completely unjustifiable and it’s unfair to hard working people who go without.
As a council member, fighting to end opt out payments is one of those tough choices I would make. In reality, this health insurance would personally benefit my family. However, I am not running for office for the perks. I’m running for the greater good. I believe this money should stay in the city coffers to help pay for expenses that are important to residents.
This is what Uncle Murph and Uncle Ermine would have done.
They would have made the personal sacrifice because it would be the right thing for the city.
I promise you, this is the type of logic I’ll use as I review ALL proposals put before the council. I will ask how residents will benefit from the costs. If a spending proposal does not help to improve the quality of life for residents, I will vote against it.
I will use my voice to ensure that your voices are represented.
I’m running for city council because we’ve had enough decisions made based on what benefits individuals or partisan politics. We’ve had enough votes cast without research or questions asked to ensure that residents’ needs are put first. If you’re as fed up as I am with what’s going on at city hall, you’ll understand why this is election is so important. You’ll understand why we need someone who can make tough choices.
I’m ready to honor my uncles’ legacy and continue to do what’s right for this city.
I’m ready to represent my party, the people of Niagara Falls.
This is my calling.
Please vote for me, Kenny Tompkins, on Tuesday, November 3.