Monday, May 16, 2011

Decoding Skorman: Skorman & Weiss in the news


Articles that mention both Skorman & Weiss

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City eyes insuring any in household

Colorado Springs city workers moved a step closer Monday to being able to put parents, live-in adult children or same-sex partners on their insurance policies.

The City Council told City Manager Lorne Kramer to look into creating a "buy-in" policy that would allow employees to sign up household members other than spouses and children. The employee would be responsible for 100 percent of the insurance costs.

Some community members have groused that the plan, revealed earlier this month, is a back-door attempt to reinstate the same-sex benefits that were cut by the council in April. Those benefits angered many in the community and became a major issue in the April 1 election.

But the suggestion to examine the new proposal was made by Councilman Larry Small, a same-sex benefits opponent who said this could insure more people at no cost to taxpayers. "I think we should do everything we can to make this effective for 2004," said Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, who also voted to eliminate samesex benefits.

Kramer is scheduled to come back to council during October budget talks with a report on whether there are any hidden costs in the plan.

The idea was pitched to city officials recently by John Weiss, Colorado Springs Independent publisher, who worked on it with other residents.

Though details haven't been finalized, backers say recipients of the insurance benefits would have to live with an employee and be financially interdependent. This could help invalid adult children or parents younger than 65, as well as same-sex partners.

While it would not have a direct cost to the city, Mayor Lionel Rivera and Councilman Tom Gallagher were worried the new enrollees could cause problems for the roughly 1,300 other people on the city's self-insured system.

Gallagher said he'd like to require physical exams so extremely ill parents or children would not be added and send costs through the roof.

Rivera asked Kramer to survey other cities or companies with similar policies and find out if their employees' insurance costs rose.

"If the preliminary information says it will increase costs to the general fund by ($50,000 or $100,000), I won't support it," Rivera said.

Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, the only member of council who opposed eliminating same-sex benefits, backs the buy-in proposal.



Council will revisit benefit expansion Plan will be difficult to pass, member says

The issue of whether to provide health insurance benefits for same- sex partners of city employees will return to the Colorado Springs City Council today. 

Backers of what would be the country's most expansive municipal insurance plan will take one last shot at getting the council to pass it this week.

Councilman Jerry Heimlicher said he will discuss the proposal at a meeting today and bring it up for a vote Tuesday.

The plan would let city employees add any household member -- same- sex partners, unmarried heterosexual partners, parents younger than 65 or adult children -- to their health insurance. Workers would have to pay all premium costs.

It came about after a newly elected council voted in April to eliminate a program that had extended benefits to same-sex partners in 2002.

Proponents push the latest proposal as a fair way to extend insurance to more people without giving special benefits to one group. They say it is different from the previous law because it has no cost to taxpayers.

The conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family has said the plan is all about reviving same-sex benefits, and several council members back its stance.

The final vote will revolve around several questions. Who is the plan helping? Why is the city doing this? Will it really be as cost- free as supporters say?

"I think it's good to have the discussion," Heimlicher said, saying it will be difficult to convince a majority of the council to back the plan. "To withdraw it is going to look like we caved into pressure from Focus and other groups who came out against this."

Although a handful of cities and counties offer same-sex benefits, municipal and human-rights watchdogs say they've never seen something as extensive as the Springs proposal.

The plan appeared headed for passage in November before an outcry persuaded Councilwoman Margaret Radford to vote against it. The council then was tied 4-4 with Randy Purvis absent, and Heimlicher asked to postpone the issue for several months.

Supporters said the best chance for passage will come from Purvis, who has said he is likely to vote against the plan, or Mayor Lionel Rivera.

Rivera said in November he objected to the plan on an economic basis -- some insurers surveyed said the inclusion of parents could force the city to pay more than it receives in premiums. That is the only case in which taxpayer money would be needed for the plan.

For many, the only part of the plan that stands out is that which would extend the same-sex benefits again.

Councilman Scott Hente and Heimlicher are adamant it's not a revival of a law they voted to abolish. Heimlicher said he supports what Focus does in the community and thinks marriage should be only between a man and a woman.

Heimlicher, the downtown and west side representative on the council, also said employees of all orientations tell him they need help paying medical bills for more people in their households.

Hente emphasized in conversations with Springs business leaders that he was told expanding the benefits plan would make the city a more attractive place for companies and employees to come.

"If there's no cost to taxpayers and it puts the city in a positive economic light, I'm hardpressed to think why I'd vote against it," the first-year councilman said.

Focus Vice President Tom Minnery wrote a letter to council members several weeks ago calling the plan a "sham" and saying it's really about same-sex benefits.

After initially supporting the plan because it seemed to be an altruistic gesture, Radford agreed. If it was merely about parents and kids, and not about a gay rights agenda, Radford says the plan would never have been brought to council members by Colorado Springs Independent publisher John Weiss.

She figures the community isn't ready for it, and the council should listen to constituents' wishes. If not, voters won't support "things that really do matter," such as the tax increase for road improvements likely to be on the November ballot.

"I've always believed, going back to the domestic partners plan, that it wasn't about getting benefits for real people who need them, though there are a few of those," Radford said. "It was about getting this lifestyle accepted."


What: Colorado Springs City Council formal meeting. When: 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.
On the agenda: Expansion of health care benefits, expansion of boundaries of Nor'wood Special Improvement Maintenance District, and addition of two code-enforcement officers.

How Colorado Springs City Council members voted on the benefits extension plan in November:

Vice Mayor Richard Skorman
Jerry Heimlicher Scott Hente
Larry Small

Mayor Lionel Rivera
Tom Gallagher
Darryl Glenn
Margaret Radford

Randy Purvis


Plan would have covered gay partners

Colorado Springs City Council members, on the verge of adopting what some called the most expansive municipal health insurance plan in America, instead dug in their heels Tuesday and decided to keep what they have.

After listening to a 3 1/2-hour debate largely about morality, the council voted 5-4 against allowing the city's 8,453 employees to add anyone except spouses and children to their health plans.

A proposal written by Colorado Springs Independent publisher John Weiss sought to expand coverage to other household members, including same-sex partners, unmarried heterosexual partners, adult children and parents younger than 65. The employees would have to pay 100 percent of the premium.

Weiss, the first of 41 people to speak on the issue Tuesday, said he hoped to unite a city torn apart after the council eliminated benefits for same-sex partners in April. That plan had been adopted just five months earlier and was revoked by the new council at its first meeting after the spring election.

Instead, Weiss' proposal reignited the firestorm that has pitted Colorado Springs' religious conservatives against its gay and lesbian community since the passage in 1992 of Amendment 2 that prohibited laws protecting gays from discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The four members who backed the plan -- Vice Mayor Richard Skorman and councilmen Jerry Heimlicher, Scott Hente and Larry Small -- argued it was about helping employees, not backing gay rights. The plan was unlikely to cost city taxpayers any money and would improve the city's image nationally, they said.

Some opponents also focused on the economic impact. Mayor Lionel Rivera and Councilman Darryl Glenn said a quartet of consultants warned inclusion of parents could cost the city more than it brings in from its premiums.

Councilwoman Margaret Radford, however, said there was no way to separate these benefits from the long-running fight over gay rights. In the end, she said, this city is not ready for this plan.

"Our job is to find a common ground. There is no common ground on moral issues," Radford told a crowd that at one point spilled out of council chambers into a hallway. "I hope after today we will pledge to not come back to this issue again, and I hope we pledge to stick to issues that are rightly ours."

Weiss said after the vote that he will drop the benefits idea and move on to other issues.

Peter Brandt, issues response director for conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, said he was pleased the council upheld the "sanctity of marriage."

Council members who backed the benefits proposal accused the ministry of helping defeat it by making an employee benefits issue into a debate over gay rights.

Heimlicher and Small said they were told by Focus backers they would be recalled from office if they supported the plan, although Brandt said he knew nothing of a recall effort.

Still, Focus' opposition set the tone of Tuesday's debate.

Most who addressed the council focused on what they saw as the morality or immorality of the plan.

Opponents argued homosexuals violate God's rules. In response, the president of the Pikes Peak Community College Gay, Lesbian, Bi- Sexual, Trans-Gender Alliance said Christianity teaches that everyone should be treated with compassion.


A resolution to allow Colorado Springs city employees to add household members -- including same-sex partners, unmarried heterosexual partners, adult children and parents under 65 -- to health insurance plans at 100 percent cost to the employee.


Mayor Lionel Rivera Tom Gallagher Darryl Glenn Randy Purvis Margaret Radford

Vice Mayor Richard Skorman Jerry Heimlicher Scott Hente Larry Small



Noreen was right, sort of

I endorse Barry Noreen's observation that sometimes Councilman Tom Gallagher's statements make a little more sense after you have had time to mull them over a bit. ("Don't Shoot the Messenger, even if it is Gallagher", Feb. 7)

I write today to make one technical clarification as well as to share an observation about his column.
Noreen wrote that "Gallagher was the top vote getter among at- large councilmen." This statement is nominally true, since Noreen limits his assertion to the male members of our species. But in April 2007, Jan Martin in fact garnered the most votes.

Gallagher did, however, win top billing in the April 2003 at- large election, where citizens could cast votes for up to four candidates. Feb. 2003 Independent polling revealed that Tom Gallagher was very few voters' first choice. In fact Richard Skorman by far and away was the first choice of most voters. But he came in fourth, because many voters left him off their ballot entirely.

John Weiss, Publisher
Colorado Springs Independent


Churches open hearts to homeless

I know, I know - the election's over. You're sick of politics, and the preening prattlers who pounce upon piles of corporate cash to get elected.

Too bad for you - it's strong mayor time! So here's the latest mix of fact, rumor, speculation, and what-ifs?

Declared: Buddy Gilmore, Brian Bahr, Dave Munger.
Probable: Sean Paige, Steve Bach, Larry Small, Richard Skorman.
Probably not: Steve Bigari, Randy Purvis, Sallie Clark, Jim Bensberg.

As things stand now, Steve Bach appears to have some support in the real estate/business/development community. His support isn't universal, though. David & Chris Jenkins, for example, have yet to publicly commit to a candidate, and it's hard to imagine that they don't have someone in mind. Hence the speculation about Steve Bigari who, despite his lack of political experience, has a powerful and appealing resume.

Independent publisher John Weiss is reportedly pushing a Skorman candidacy. Seasoned political observers agree that Skorman could pick up enough votes to make a runoff, assuming a strong multi- candidate field. Depending upon his opponent, Richard could - go - all - the - way!

Of course, that's assuming that a Skorman candidacy would lead to a Munger withdrawal, and that seems improbable. Dave has been campaigning too long to fold his tent and obediently go home. More likely, the two would split the liberal/moderate vote, and guarantee a runoff between social/fiscal conservatives.

Gilmore and Bahr are vying for the same Christian conservatives that might be energized by a Bigari candidacy, so it's hard to handicap them at this point. Bahr, so the rumors say, is prepared to self-finance his campaign rather than kowtow to the self- appointed kingmakers of the business community.

Paige and Small have experience, great name recognition, and attractive public personas. But they're both outspoken mavericks, and may have difficulty gaining traction in a crowded race. Voters like to keep a few mavericks around, but they usually choose quiet competence over noisy genius. And it may be an advantage to be a new face, with new ideas, and no enemies.

My advice to the candidates: learn from Bennet and Hickenlooper. Their improbable victories had one thing in common: they're both graduates of Wesleyan University, an obscure "liberal arts" college in Middletown, Conn. There they learned the black arts of politics, and how to cast spells that confuse, dismay, and confound opponents. Wesleyan's success wasn't confined to Colorado - graduates of our nation's equivalent of Hogwarts picked off the Vermont governorship, as well as a bunch of minor offices.

So don't follow in the footsteps of Andrew Romanoff, Ken Buck, Dan Maes, and Tom Tancredo. It's clear that they lost through no fault of their own, but through the subtle witchcraft of their Wesleyan-schooled opponents. If a Wesleyan graduate enters the race, just withdraw - a Muggle has no chance against a disciple of the real Albus Dumbledore...Douglas Bennet, Wesleyan '59, Michael's father and for many years Wesleyan's president.

I'd love to give you more info - but my Wesleyan Alumni Magazine just arrived, and I need to catch up on the latest spells...

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