Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Community Members Seek Greater Support for Hamilton County JFS at Future Budget Hearings

Over a dozen concerned citizens gathered in Mt. Auburn last night at the Church of Our Savior for a public meeting to discuss Hamilton County's proposed budget and its impact on county services and workers. The proposed budget cuts for 2009 would close a jail, eliminate deputy patrols in some townships, layoff hundreds of county workers, and have an untold impact on many public programs.

According to employees of the Hamilton County Job and Family Services (JFS) who attended yesterday's meeting, as many as 350 jobs could be lost in this department alone. In fact, layoffs have already begun at JFS as an estimated 80 workers have already lost their jobs.

Organizers and sponsors of yesterday's public meeting (including Mother Paula Jackson, Rev. Damon Lynch III, and Cincinnati Progressive Action) voiced concerns over the layoffs at JFS during these times of economic hardship. Attendees expressed concern that during times when unemployment is going to increase, the county will be eliminating workers from an agency that will be needed the most and who are most prepared to handle an increase in unemployed citizens. In addition to the loss of jobs at JFS, attendees worried that elimination of these positions will put many of these workers into the unemployment line themselves and will actually end up costing the county more money in the long-run.

The first public hearing put together by County Commissioners was held on November 19 at the Sharonville Convention Center. An estimated 150 citizens attended this hearing and numerous employees of the Sheriff's Office spoke voicing their opposition to the recommended budget. Family members of these employees also voiced their concerns about how job losses and a reduction in public safety services will affect their communities. While the vast majority of the speakers at this first public hearing were connected to the Sheriff's Office, members of the Hamilton County JFS were largely absent despite facing similar job and service cuts. As the final two public hearings approach on December 3 and December 10, attendees of last night's public meeting shared the viewpoint that more members of JFS are needed to attend these hearings to voice their opinion on an issue that greatly affects them.

With a lack of representation from JFS workers at both the public hearing on November 19 and at last night's public meeting at the Church of Our Savior, it was acknowledged that there is work to do to both educate workers at JFS on the impact that the proposed budget will have on the agency and also motivate JFS workers to attend the remaining public hearings to give their input and voice solutions to issues raised in the 2009 proposed budget.

Some of the attendees of last night's meeting questioned how the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are working with their members at JFS as the threat of future job cuts loom. Based upon the response of JFS employees at the meeting, it appears that AFSCME has taken little to no action to encourage workers to either attend or speak out at the public hearings. AFSCME even cancelled a recent meeting despite questions raised by JFS workers about this current crisis.

As the public meeting concluded, attendees called for JFS workers, all those who have been affected by the services that JFS provides, and all citizens concerned about the future of County services to attend either one or both of the remaining public hearings to voice their opinions as well as their solutions to the cuts that are included in the proposed budget. The times and locations for the remaining two public hearings are as follows:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008 at 6:30 p.m.
The Drake Center
Rooms F and G, Level A, West Pavilion
151 West Galbraith Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45216-1096

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 6:30 p.m.
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
3520 Central Parkway
Cincinnati, Ohio 45223-2690

This article can also be found at: http://www.cincinnatibeacon.com

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