Health Care debate Mission Viejo style

Impeccable timing. As the US Senate debates National Health Care the Mission Viejo city council will be addressing this very same topic on Monday evening.

One minor difference. Councilman Lance MacLean, who has accepted access to a Mission Viejo taxpayer funded lifetime health care benefit, has just offered to remove himself from access to that perk. However, we all know that once you rescind a benefit, and should Lance survive the February 2nd recall election, he can always have his controlling council majority have it reinstated. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

For those not familiar with this local policy issue let me provide some background data. One of the charges in the recall petition relates to this very costly topic.

In June 1998 Mission Viejo voters approved limiting our council to three consecutive four years terms. Several years ago our city council agreed to allow any member who serves for 12 consecutive years to have access to a lifetime health care benefit paid for by the taxpayers of Mission Viejo.

Fast forward to the May 19, 2008 council meeting where council member Frank Ury Agendized the following: “Elimination of Current and Future City Council Members from eligibility for Lifetime Medical Benefits.

The recommended action: “Approve an Amendment to the Council Policies to Eliminate Current and Future Council Members from Eligibility in the Mission Viejo Employee Retiree Medical Benefit Program.”

Jumping ahead to the Agenda heading which reads: “Bottom line: It is not right for the taxpayers of Mission Viejo to pay a lifetime of benefits to retired Council Members (and their spouses) for 12 years of part time work.”

The first line of the next to last paragraph of Frank’s recommended action reads:
“If this council each reaches the 12 years of service, and in round numbers each lives another 25 years or so, the savings going forward will be $10,800 x 25 years or $270,000.”

Although I spoke in favor of the recommended action I did question Frank Ury on the timing of Agendizing this item just prior to his November reelection.
If you watch the meeting video you will hear Frank state that “we do not need the taxpayers of Mission Viejo to pay our (health care) benefit after 12 years of service.”

He later says that “this is a benefit that is  above and beyond what we should be entitled to serving as a part time council.”In his comments councilman Lance MacLean says that “I have to agree this is more politically motivated” adding “it’s difficult for me to watch the political play in action…it’s a game.” PS: He was right. This was politically motivated.

Lance later says “I don’t need those benefits because I am already covered.”
Later in the debate he says “I’m not going to take it” yet fights to retain it.

In council discussion of the ability to rescind their right to have the benefit our city attorney responds “if someone wants to have a change of heart” we’ll deal with it (paraphrased).
Well folks. Here we are. But before we engage in this latest offer to save his seat let me take you to Agenda Item #25 of the council meeting of Nov 17, 2008.

November 17, 2008. This just happens to be the first meeting after his re-election, where Frank Ury makes a major U-turn and votes to reinstate the very benefits that he said were obscene. After making a valid conservative argument in May he now does a 180.

The council adopted Resolution 08-57 Amending a Personal Policy Regarding Retiree Health Benefits. The vote.
AYES. Kelley, Ury, MacLean
NOES. Ledesma
Absent. Reavis

Prior to their debate I spoke in opposition to that reversal urging a no vote as well as my pointing out that there was zero heath care benefit cost data in the back-up package. After my Public Comments member Ledesma questioned our assistant City Manager on said cost.

Irwin Bornstein confirmed the future benefit total payout cost, after 12 years of consecutive part time service, on average could be $257,000 per member.

Note: Irwin did point out that as of Jan 1 2007 we changed from a Defined Benefit plan to a Defined Contribution Plan for all new participants.
Folks. At the very next council meeting, as a reward for his vote, the council majority bypassed mayor pro-tem John Paul Ledesma and selected Frank Ury as mayor for 2009.

Why doesn’t someone challenge Lance MacLean?

He is a broken record stating that “you have to win three terms and that is difficult to do.” According to my (prior) research 90 percent of incumbents running for re-election prevail over challengers. Where is he getting data to back up that lame rebuttal.

So let us wait as Lance goes into panic mode by his latest proposal to save his council seat by offering to relinquish his access to the lifetime health care which he feels is an entitlement.
In his March 2009 interview OC Weekly   reporter Spencer Kornhaber writes.
“In council meetings, MacLean, Ury and Kelley never endorsed the idea that part-time council members deserved medical benefits. After dealing with the recall, though, MacLean changed his mind.
Spencer than quotes Lance as follows: “look at all the stress that I have. Go out there and Google how many council members across the United States have been gunned down and killed. You’d be surprised,” he says.The story continues which Lance saying: “I’ve been elected to work for the City of Mission Viejo. I think my health should be taken care of. If I were to get murdered in a council meeting by one of these knuckleheads, you know how much life insurance “I’ve got through the City? Goose egg. None.”
Lance. This issue relates to health care not your life insurance or police protection.

About Larry Gilbert