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Saturday, October 15, 2011

SOMEONE IN THE MEDIA FINALLY LOOKED AT THE BUDGET


Sun-Times analysis: Who will be hit by Emanuel’s 517 layoffs
BY FRAN SPIELMAN

      Mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked about laying off more than 500 city employees and eliminating 776 vacant jobs, but he has not identified them or explained what city services will suffer.
Now, an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times and one of the impacted unions shows where the ax will fall — in a way that could slow response time to 911 calls or stretch call takers to the limit, decimate Chicago Public libraries and force dramatic cuts in health and human services.
At the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, where 911 call takers have more than doubled their annual salaries in overtime over the years, the budget calls for 108 layoffs and the elimination of 80 vacancies. Seventy-three of the layoffs are recently fired Loop traffic-control-aides.
The ranks of police dispatchers would be reduced by 45 or 10.3 percent. The number of fire communications operators would drop by 17 or 16.6 percent.
“Management … is saying the wait time for a 911 call will go from one-to-three seconds to ten-to-fifteen seconds, possibly more. This is very disturbing,” said an OEMC employee, who asked to remain anonymous.
Employees have also been told that four of 22 radio repair technicians stand to lose their jobs at a time when radio and data frequencies need to be reprogrammed to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate.
“A shortage of techs will cause a delay in abiding by this mandate and also in replacing aging equipment. A failure of the older equipment during an emergency without repair personnel would be catastrophic,” the employee said.
In 2009, more than 60 operators at the 911 center each earned more than $20,000 in overtime pay. One racked up $90,552 in overtime, more than his $77,784 annual salary.
Still, the mayor’s office defended the job cuts, noting that paying overtime “is less expensive than having a full-time staff person” who is not needed year-round.
“Safety remains the top priority, and we will continue to maintain our efficiency,” said Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman for the city’s Office of Budget and Management.
“We know our historical high volume and peak time and, if we have to provide overtime, it has already been accounted for in the budget.”
As for the FCC deadline, Strand said, “The city is making every effort to meet this mandate and the success of executing an inter-operable communications plan is not directly tied to the number of electrical technicians that will be laid off.”
Emanuel has talked about reducing library hours on Monday and Friday mornings. But, that does not begin to explain the 363 job cuts he has made there.
Sixty librarians, 59 library clerks and all of the remaining “pages” — workers charged with re-shelving books — would be cut.
In 2009, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley laid off 120 library pages, nearly half the complement. When books piled up because there were not enough people to re-stack shelves, Daley was forced to reduce weekday hours to accommodate an “exhausted” and overworked library staff.
Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, called the Health Department cuts the most devastating of all.
The budget calls for closing six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics, fully funding just two of them and implementing the mayor’s summer plan to have seven city health clinics partner with federally-qualified health centers.
Nearly 200 grant-funded positions would also be cut from the Department of Family and Support Services. The targeted workers serve Chicago’s most vulnerable residents, including domestic violence victims, the elderly, homeless and at-risk youth.
“If you presented this budget to [Republican House Speaker] John Boehner in Congress, he’d pass it in a minute. I hope the City Council won’t,” Bayer said.
“The mayor is cutting into basic services and laying off hundreds of front-line employees who provide those vital services. ... I can only conclude he’s not concerned about providing vital services to people in communities. His total focus seems to be on the business community.”
Strand insisted that the city was “reinvesting $500,000 in enhanced psychiatry services and care coordination” in the consolidated mental health clinics. That’s a move she claimed would provide “improved service at a lower cost.”
“The city will maintain services for those most in need — uninsured patients — but provide the services in a more cost-effective manner. The city will actually be able to increase services provided and save $3 million,” she said, noting that all 3,000 uninsured patients would continue to be served by the city.
As for cuts in the Department of Family and Support Services, Strand noted that the grant-funded positions were eliminated “in direct response to funding cuts that took place earlier this year” at the state and federal levels.                             

5 comments:

  1. Why did they come after the OEMC so hard? I guess we don't have the political clout of the other departments. Still it's stupid to jeopardize public safety in such an obvious way. Wait till the lawsuits start. 15 seconds to get through to a call taker? The lawyers must be lining up already. This is stupid on too many levels. They're risking the lives of everyone who relies on 911 including themselves. It's stupid politically. Who's going to take the blame when someone gets killed while they're waiting for a 911 call to go through? It's shallow fiscal policy. They'll pay more in the end to settle lawsuits and pay contractors to build the radio system than if they just left the place alone to begin with. What the hell are they thinking about?

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  2. Sorry to all the Supervisors, call takers, NMC personnel and radio techs who are affected by this bullshit move. These are some of the best people at the OEMC. Very unfair. Meanwhile the moronic clout babies and unqualified contractors are safe and sound. I hope someone can alert the media and the public about this mistake. Maybe a loud enough outcry can reverse some of this. Not only is this the same political garbage that has destroyed this city for years, this is worse. These people are jeopardizing the safety of our families by playing the same old political games. What will happen when the riots start at the G8 and NATO summits? The lack of qualified personnel at the OEMC will cause chaos in the response to the emergencies. Don't be surprised if the whole place goes down due to lack of qualified NMC and radio personnel. This is criminal negligence. I hope people go to jail over it.

    Again sorry to those who will be let go. God bless you and your families.

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  3. Quit taking B.S. calls! Send them to 311, and you will have plenty of time for TRUE Emergency Calls!

    And Quit Voting for DemOcRATS and Phony Union Officials that sell you out on every contract!

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  4. Wait till they start mandating again. Poor Amy won't get her lunch on the end....boohoo....cry cry to the supervisors.

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  5. Is anyone paying attention to the fact that the 911 center is financially self-sustaining, thanks to the 911 surcharge of $2.50 on EVERY phone line with a 312, 773 or 224 area code? In the 2012 "Budget Overview," The mayor himself asserts that the 911 surcharge brings in over $94 MILLION a year. The cost to operate the OEMC amounts to roughly $61 million a year. He wants to knock it down to $51M. So, Mr Mayor, what have you been doing with the other 33 MILLION DOLLARS you stole this year from the Emergency Telephone System Fund? There is even an Emergency Telephone System Fund Board comprised of 5 Mayor-appointed officials (go figure) that no one seems to be aware of (link: http://webapps.cityofchicago.org/moboco/org/cityofchicago/moboc/controller/view/searchBoard.do;jsessionid=GBBVLy4GGyNhvnyJt4vnWWV0D5BLmLWvHRBXyvbphK1zmL8qyLpN!-243696004?cid=41 ).
    $33 million in misappropriated funds is not enough? Really?

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