by Don Washington on 2011/11/03
The Emanuel budget is on the verge of becoming a reality and it slashes jobs, pensions and costs and real services to real people with real needs. You see government is based on the notion of a social contract. The basic contract goes something like this: “I won’t organize a horde of angry villagers to burn down your Ravenswood mailing address and you will provide enough government resources to keep me from getting that desperate and angry. I will consent to the rule of law and courts and you will create a system whose hallmarks are fairness and equality of opportunity. Sadly, our Mayor’s concept of a social contract reads like something out of a Dickens novel complete with sweat shop and debtor’s prisons.
Since we’re talking about real cuts in services to real people let’s start with a service only Satan’s spiteful brother would cut, (I’m not saying anything about the Mayor’s genealogy but he is suggesting cutting this service.) and that would be 9-11 emergency services. Now it is true that ever since Mayor Daley partially privatized the services at the 9-11 call center it’s been a poster child for graft and corruption. I think you can safely say that there are child prostitution rings with more integrity than the various vendors in that place. IF you wanted to reform it and find savings in it you would start with the contracting! You would throw contractors in jail! You would get our damn money back! THE SAVINGS ARE RIGHT HERE! Is the Mayor doing ANY of this… no! He’s got a better idea… and by better I mean this is the part where he metaphorically beats you with his Victorian era cane for asking for more gruel.
The plan is to cut 10.3% from the ranks of police dispatchers and 16.6% off the fire communications operator roster. So pay attention. We’re not going to take any of the cash saving steps outlined by Silent Joe Ferguson’s Inspector General’s office. Naw, we’re gonna fire radio repair technicians when we most need them to reprogram radio and data frequencies need to be to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate. We’re also going to fire enough dispatchers to increase your call response time from one to three seconds to ten to fifteen seconds and possibly driving up into a minute wait. Hey, when you think about it there’s no need for the dispatchers to even be FROM Chicago. (That’s not being suggested now but just you wait.)
One confusingly hilarious detail to the privatization of emergency services; the operators at the 911 center each earned more than $20,000 in overtime pay. Mayor Daley said it was cheaper than paying for more dispatchers. Mayor Emanuel appears to agree but one of the rationales for cutting positions is their overtime pay. So if there are LESS dispatchers won’t they work MORE overtime and if there’s enough over time won’t that mean we should have MORE dispatchers? That doesn’t even get into the issue around how much overtime SHOULD a person be allowed to log when we want them rested and sharp to do their job? If this makes no damn sense to you as a cost savings idea it makes even less sense as a public safety policy.
You may recall that not two days ago Mayor Emanuel had somehow crossed the threshold of a church to stand with the parents of murdered children while doing everything in his power to make it possible for more children to be murdered. You might call such a thing cynical but that’s because you have a moral compass but our Mayor… well he left his in someone else’s pants decades ago. If your head is spinning from anger that’s okay; you are having a natural reaction to an identified evil.
There is an inverse relationship between services and income. The more income you have the more city services you use to make more income and the more dependent you are on city services working to meet the needs of those with less income so that they do not become a mob with pitchforks rioting in your streets. The less income you have the less city services you use but every service you receive is critical to your survival and those services make it less likely that you will resort to crime or open rebellion in order to survive.
I think Henry Bayer the executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said it best: “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.”
This is not hyperbole. Think of how many times Mayor Emanuel has stood in front of his media fans flanked by some other guy in a suit that costs more than two car notes and they are announcing that they are bringing more people, just like them to Chicago. Now think of how many times Mayor Emanuel has stood up with the workers who provide you everything from police services to education for your children? See, it’s pretty clear, that Mayor Emanuel is pretty clear about who he works for but that kind of clarity has consequences and if the alderfolk don’t get on their “A” game 9-11 is not only going to be a joke; it’s going to get a lot of good people killed.