Leaders of the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership focused on proposed cuts to Evanston’s youth, recreation and human services programs at a meeting Thursday night at Grace Lutheran Church.
The organizers also said the planned layoffs of 17.5 workers would disproportionately affect workers who are black and live in Evanston.
OPAL says nine of the workers facing layoffs are black and seven of them live in Evanston, while eight workers facing layoffs are white, and two of them live in the city.
The OPAL data doesn’t consider the race or residency of the last occupant of the 21 vacant positions also scheduled to be trimmed from the budget.
Sixteen of those positions come from the police and fire departments, which tend to have few city residents, and, in the case of the Fire Department, are disproportionately white.
OPAL President Roger Williams said budget cuts would affect “some of the most vulnerable and poor people” in the city.
He noted plans to end city funding for the Gibbs-Morrison Center at Church and Dodge and complained that “it was never set up to thrive” with “staff but no programs, no way to generate revenue.”
And he complained about plans to reorganize the city’s program for high-risk youths and young adults. “This program has been working very well,” Williams said. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
Kevin Brown discusses his dismay about plans to move him to a new position.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has proposed moving the head of the Youth and Young Adult Services program, Kevin Brown, to head a new Elevate Evanston workforce development program proposed by Mayor Steve Hagerty.
Ken Cherry, manager of the Fleetwood Jourdain Center, would become the new head of the youth program.
OPAL Vice-President Oliver Ruff criticized the planned $821,000 in cuts in the city’s Health Department, which would lose nearly a third of its staff.
And Board Member Tiffini Holmes objected to planned cuts of $250,000 from funds the Mental Health Board distributes to local agencies, saying those programs support over 5,000 Evanston community members.
Alderman Cicely Fleming speaking to residents.
Alderman Ciciely Fleming, 9th Ward, an OPAL founder, urged the few dozen residents in the room to raise questions about the budget before its scheduled adoption next month.
“Don’t come to me in January and complain about the budget,” she said. “Do it now.”