Brookfield HRPS committee to vote on health club benefits

Man, I wish I’d been wrong, but indeed, that agenda item from the other day is this.

“3. Discussion and possible action regarding the proposed framework for fitness reimbursement pilot program.” translates to:

Employees who enroll in the program through a participating health club will receive up to $20 per month reimbursement for membership dues in months the employee visits the health club for at least forty-five (45) minutes on twelve (12) separate days. Spouses of employees shall also be eligible for this program, but in no case will the monthly reimbursement exceed the associated monthly cost of the health club membership.

Yes, spouses receive the benefit, too. You’ll notice the way this is crafted that someone gets paid to be the health-club-attendee police.

So just a year following the election of a mayor who was supposed to be a better Republican, that same guy is both lamenting Scott Walker’s budget decisions and tossing benefits to government employees. Or at least he’s proposing to do so. I suspect this will pass the committee, but I sure hope it won’t pass the council level. Expect to hear a lot of talk about “having the money already” and “it will save us money in the end.”

Each employee would have access to about $500 a year if their spouse joined, too. The City of Brookfield is one of Brookfield’s largest employers. But at the same time the Mayor is concerned enough about the state’s budget changes to write a four-page letter, he’s doling out new perks to city employees.

Am I devastated? No. But I sure am disenchanted. Is it impossible to find a politician anywhere who leads with the same set of priorities he uses to be elected? No, I won’t cut him any slack. This all came from staff; the same staff he’s supposed to be managing to work in favor of the taxpayer. Regardless of the outcome, Steve Ponto was a fool to let the issue even get this far.


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    I suspect the argument will be if employees are healthy they will miss less time and be more productive. What a proposal like this does for the mayor is make him a winner either way. It may be the “bad” Board that nixes the idea but Mr. Mayor can hold his head up high around the public employees. A true bureaucrat worded this because nowhere do you see $40 per employee or an additional $20 for a spouse. And the last part after the comma in the last sentence is not needed but sounds good–unless memberships in your area are a better bargain then here. No way can someone make 12 trips to a club for $20 or under even if in a co-membership with a spouse. Another reason to present this as given is because if it were to be approved, in a year or two they’ll be back to increase the allowance and maybe add children to the deal. You’re right Cindy, monitoring this could be a boondoggle. Most likely it would be done on an honor system.

    What several jurisdictions here have done is approach the clubs to offer a discount for county/city employees if they join under certain conditions. I know of this because my daughter has one of the memberships. No taxpayer funds needed and same result.

  2. Good instincts on this one Cindy!

    As Randy points out, there are arguments that could be made for this, but when you juxapose adding fringe benefits along side the rhetoric about common sense government and tightening up on entitlements, it does seem a bit suicidal to do this now in a place like Brookfield.

    Maybe Mr. Ponto or someone on the board will show up here and provide an explanation….?

  3. If you are interested in hearing the council debate and find out which two aldermen voted against this (one also voted against it at the finance meeting) check the video on the city web site. Jump to time 20:00.

    Wow! Where is all that austerity?

  4. Maybe the Mayor thinks he’s snatched VonMaur from the Town, eh? That gives him a few extra bucks!

  5. Berg, “voted against this?” No, you and Blackburn voted against transferring some money, not starting the program. I’ll congratulate you for standing your ground. I hope the two of you continue your stance when this vote goes to the council. I am very disappointed in L Mellone, J Mellone, Lowerr, Sutton, Carnell, and even Balzer. I’ll admit it. (The others are likely a lost cause.) There’s no such thing as free money. There’s no reason for it to be spent in this way now. I’m really disappointed in Mayor Steve Ponto.

    Hey, and as always, thanks for being such a loyal reader. Next time, well, linking to the minutes would be faster. I got what I needed without having to listen to what I’m sure is you making your point for 20 minutes.

    Dad29 – more on that particular subject tomorrow!

  6. Ald. Scott Berg says:

    Well, as Charlie Sykes might say, I see Cynnntheeea is back.

    The proposed fitness reimbursement program was approved at the HRPS committee meeting of 4/5/11. The first chance any alderman not on that committee had to vote on the proposal was for the financial implementation at the finance committee of 4/19/11 followed by that night’s council meeting. You incorrectly imply there was some point where a non-HRPS member could have opposed the program before then when there was not.

    By the way, I attended the HRPS committee meeting tonight. I was allowed to read these blog comments to the committee. They approved the program unanimously anyway. Perhaps if you had attended you could have swung the vote.

    I wonder if your reader(s) realize how often you play them for fools by relying on their lack of knowledge about a city topic. Once again, truth takes a hit on the blog that is anything but, “To a sufficient degree; in an evenhanded manner.”

  7. Once again, truth takes a hit on the blog that is anything but, “To a sufficient degree; in an evenhanded manner.”


  8. Mr. Berg:

    Even if you are correct about the fairly trivial follow-up point about the timing of non-HRPS members having meaningful opposition to the program, I don’t exactly see that as a game-changer here.

    Ignoring the comments about fairly minor details and going back to Cindy’s 2 posts on the subject… the one May 9th where Cindy speculated about what the “Discussion and possible action regarding the proposed framework for fitness reimbursement pilot program” might be and the one on May 11th where she posted additional details confirming that her initial speculation was correct, what major points did she make in those posts that were so egregiously flawed that I should consider myself being “played a fool” for thinking what Cindy said in both of these posts made a good deal of sense?

    You made a pretty strong charge. I’m just curious if you have anything substantial to back it up. I have no agenda here but to get to the truth of the matter. Hopefully you can enlighten me…..

  9. Ald. Scott Berg: That you are even commenting on this blog means it’s time to see about getting your medication adjusted.

    Now, you misrepresent the situation with your last comment. Sadly, the city hasn’t seen fit to put the minutes of that meeting on its website, but I do have a copy. The fitness reimbursement program wasn’t approved that evening. Only transferring the money for a wellness program was approved. The same directive went through the finance committee and later the council.

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that I have no influence with the HRPS committee members. What remains to be seen is if I have influence with the voters.

    Zach – not to worry. Mr. Berg is insanely jealous of my clever tag line. He takes any chance to slap at it. He had a blog once, but no one really paid attention to it, so he dumped it. Sadly, as I noted above, he’s wrong on this one. He will try very hard to make it seem otherwise, though, in hopes of discounting my effort. As is often the case, his approach here doesn’t make sense. After all, I’m supporting his position. Don’t you think a good politician would appreciate that instead of whimpering in public?

    And to read my blog at the committee! That’s kind of funny. He keeps wanting to make it sound like I’m wasting my time, but then he does something like that. It’s so Scott Berg.

  10. John Foust says:

    “Adjust your medications”? Do you talk like that to elected officials when you attend public meetings, or only on your blog?

  11. Only when it’s Scott Berg.

  12. Ald. Scott Berg says:

    I’m sorry for the delay in my reply, but my day job prevents my continuous attention to the blogosphere.

    The first manipulation is Kilkenny’s claim that Mayor Ponto is primarily responsible for this program. In fact it originated with a consultant’s report that claims promoting general fitness among employees through workouts decreases insurance claims. This was debated at the HR committee (BTW, I voted against that name on 9/20/05 – guess who voted for it?) and was solely driven by the committee. The mayor did not specifically oppose or veto the plan, but that’s true for most city actions. Why is it that the aldermen are irrelevant? It couldn’t have passed without their support and Kilkenny, as a former alderman and HR committee member, knows that.

    The second manipulation is former alderman Kilkenny’s specific claim on this blog to still have influence on the council. Note the HR committee approved the plan even after my reading this blog at the meeting. I think that illustrates Kilkenny’s lack of credibility among her former peers on the committee and council. How many of you reader’s tend to believe her entries because of her oft-quoted credentials? Isn’t it interesting you never read her chastising her alleged supporters like Ald. Sutton who voted for this? Of course, Ald. Blackburn and I also unsuccessfully opposed this plan, but then we’re not claiming we have insights and influence beyond what we actually have.

    A third manipulation is Kilkenny’s claim that “no one really paid attention to it [my blog]”. How does she know that? Does she have a web traffic report? In fact, every new post I made had several hundred hits in the first couple of days. My biggest challenge was not having time to post several times a week. It’s not like I lead an empty life with only web nicknames to talk to and no career to absorb my attention.

    The fourth manipulation (and that’s just on this entry!) is the repeated statements by Kilkenny about me being “on medication”, presumably for a psychological disorder. Do you have any doubt that she’s attempting to attack my reputation with this claim, offering no proof (that’s because it’s not true) and hiding behind freedom of the press, her blog’s incorporation protecting personal assets and my legal status as a public figure? That’s sadly ironic given Kilkenny’s unsuccessful lawsuit (she voluntarily dropped it) alleging a false claim (so why did she drop the suit?) of her being bipolar.

    As for my opposition to the fitness program, please watch the video to hear all my reasons. One point is that if a person is inclined to engage in enough gym exercise to have health benefits, he would already be doing so and that $20/month won’t matter. A second reason is the initial funding is unused employee medical flexible spending program contributions surrendered to the general fund and which eventually will have to be replaced with tax revenue.

  13. So we agreed on this issue, Scott. Imagine if we’d disagreed.

  14. Not to pick a side in this argument/debate, I will say that I’m a believer in the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While I know Cindy and her ilk abhor any government spending on programs like health care, pensions, etc., etc., there does seem to be some value in the notion of spending a little money now on employee health and prevention programs in order to avoid more costly health insurance claims down the road.

  15. True, but membership in a health club does not make one healthy. Besides! We’re cutting things like library spending to be prudent. Why not put $12,000 back into that fund?

  16. Randy in Richmond says:

    Have you ever noticed how a paltry sum like $12,000 can create issues or controversy yet a government body will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes on the consent agenda or with no discussion.

  17. Yep.