Balanced budget yields employee cuts

Katie Park

Jackie Brownlee has worked for the City of Evanston for almost 21 years. On Friday, her employment with the city will come to an end.

Brownlee, an executive assistant in the Community Development Department, is among more than 30 workers who will lose their jobs with the adoption of the 2010-11 fiscal year’s budget.

“It’s not my fault,” Brownlee said. “There should never have been two executive secretaries here.”

Brownlee said the cuts were “not fair” and said she should have been moved to another clerical position.

“I am extremely hurt and devastated after 21 f*cking years,” she said.

The job cuts come from several departments including Parks/Forestry and Recreation, Public Works and Health and Human Services.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said every department was asked to find positions that could be eliminated.

“Every department was asked to look at their budget for the coming year,” Bobkiewicz said. “I don’t think there was a single process.”

Bobkiewicz said the city tried to cut positions that would have the least effect on residents and said he does not think the job cuts will have a large public consequence.

Kevin Johnson, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1891, Evanston’s employee union, told THE DAILY prior to the budget’s approval that the cuts will have major effects on city services.

“You have beautiful recreational facilities that you want to upgrade, and you’re getting rid of people who will help clean these facilities and keep them operating,” Johnson said. “While life and safety services are very important, it does not seem that the residents or the city and aldermen view that the other services that city employees provide are as important.”AFSCME Executive Vice President Rick Thomas said the cuts would affect maintenance employees’ response times and facilities’ sanitary conditions.

“You may run out of toilet paper, and there’s no one to get toilet paper for you,” Thomas said. “(Employees) provide a lot of care in their work, and they make sure that their floors and bathrooms will be clean.”

Thomas said the job cuts will create difficulties for the employees who lose their jobs in addition to impacting residents.

“They affect men and women with families who are trying to send their kids to college and school to make sure they have a future to secure,” he said. “It’s not like you can leave one job and go to another to do the same work or similar.”

Bobkiewicz said the budget process has been difficult for everyone involved. He said he is not happy with the final approved budget.

“Any time that you’re laying off good, hardworking employees is always very difficult,” he said. “But we balanced the budget.”

Thomas said AFSCME has begun negotiations for its employee contracts but has not yet discussed the budget with the city.

“The impact of what goes on with the city’s budget has fallen upon our shoulders,” he said. “It’s unfair. It seems to always be that way.”Nathalie Tadena contributed to this report.[email protected]