Community members dispute proposed budget cuts

By Gus Bode

Community activists are protesting City Manager Allen Gill’s proposal to eliminate the position of community relations officer and combine its responsibilities with the city’s human resource department.

The community relations officer is responsible for ensuring the city complies with the goals of the Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity program. The proposal is one of many cutbacks detailed in Gill’s preliminary budget adjustments for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years, during which the city is expected to accumulate a deficit of more than $5 million.

Community Relations Officer Marilyn James declined to comment on the proposal.


Local business owner Rev. Sidney Logwood spoke in opposition of the proposal at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting. Logwood said because the human resources department hires for the city, giving it the responsibility of monitoring Affirmative Action would allow it to govern its own actions and, in essence, do away with Affirmative Action.

However, Gill said there is absolutely no conflict of interest and both departments concern recruiting, hiring, promoting and training employees while relying on the same information.

The two departments are partners and have to work together to produce federally required reports, he said.

‘Affirmative action is a human resources function,’ Gill said. ‘In most small cities and small agencies, the Affirmative Action program is administered by the human resources department.’

Logwood also said a disproportionate amount of the proposed cuts would affect minorities, such as the closure of the Eurma C. Hayes Center, where youth-orientated Attucks Community Services operates. He said he doesn’t want programs cut that kids can walk across the street or around the corner to and get help.

Gill said minorities are not being targeted.

‘We can’t print money, and we have to live within our means,’ Gill said. ‘When revenues go down, our spending has to go down.’


Though Gill said his cuts and revenue enhancements total more than $2 million and will fall on everybody, Logwood said the elimination of a deputy chief position in the police department is a smokescreen used to claim equal cuts.

Logwood said because Police Chief Jody O’Guinn wants one deputy chief and a captain as well, there would really be no loss of a position, unlike the consolidation of the community relations officer.

‘(For the city) to try and make it seem as though ‘we’re doing the same thing over here’ – that’s not the case,’ he said.

Community activist Margaret Nesbitt said Gill, councilman Chris Wissmann, other community members and herself formerly agreed on an Affirmative Action plan for the city, a key part of which was the Community Relations Officer position. Nesbitt said a commitment to that plan has already been made because the council signed it.

‘We want that plan to hold just like it’s written,’ she said.

Nesbitt said she has confidence the council will not change the plan.

Ella Lacey, retired SIUC professor and community activist, said the community relations position is imperative to strengthen the city’s relationship with its citizens.

‘(If) the budget is tight, there are many places that you look to, but you don’t cut one of the potentially stronger things that you have for gaining the support of the community,’ Lacey said.

Nick Johnson can be reached at [email protected]