Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Home Loans Would Help City Keep Good Employees

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Home Loans Would Help City Keep Good Employees

Article excerpt

An attempt to improve benefits that could be offered to city employees has sparked a storm of controversy that I see as largely misplaced. Paul Beckerle, 25th Ward alderman, has introduced a bill that would create an employee loan program for city workers; I am a co-sponsor. The bill would create a fund to grant city employees who qualify up to $5,000 in a forgivable loan - provided that the money is used toward the purchase of a home or the improvement of the employee's existing home. Employees could qu alify for the loan only once, and the loans would be granted to employees on a graduated scale, giving preference to the lowest-paid employees first.

This proposal could be part of a benefit package the city could offer employees who in most cases could make a better living in the private sector. In addition, it would help address one of the city's greatest problems, investment in our housing stock. That kind of investment in owner-occupied property would be welcome in any of our neighborhoods.

Of course, this bill is hardly perfect. It does require some adjustment and further input and suggestion. That is what the committee process is for, and I hope that we will have a healthy debate over the details of this bill. But the already animated discussion raises a much larger issue about the value of public employees, which we should all consider. And though we need to discuss the specifics of this bill, we should not allow those specifics to blind us to the greater issues this legislation speaks to.

The overall discussion about public employees today has unfortunately been framed by the Republican Congress, which has constantly denigrated government and its employees. Congressional Republicans would have us believe all government workers are shiftless and lazy. And if government itself does not value public employees, it cannot expect the people to either. Each of us wants to be appreciated in our work, and yet public employees are expected to work harder and better in an environment where they are sneered at and looked down upon by the very people they serve.

A common refrain in politics at all levels today is the need for government to be run more like a business. …

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