4-H Fans, Others Lobby County for Funds

Commissioners weigh $12 million in cuts, 181 jobs
The overflow crowd in the lobby of the county administration building arrived too late for a seat in the boardroom.

An overflow crowd in the lobby of the county administration building arrived too late for a seat in the boardroom, and watched Wednesday's Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting on TV. (Photo by the writer.)

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (Aug. 5, 2009): As Washtenaw County grapples with a staggering budget deficit, 4-H supporters – including local farmers, teens and club leaders – packed Wednesday’s county Board of Commissioners meeting, urging commissioners not to cut funding for that program. They were joined by many others who use master gardening, financial counseling and other services of the county’s MSU Extension program, which could see dramatic funding cuts as the county tries to balance its budget.

As The Chronicle previously reported, the county faces a $30 million deficit over the next two years. Last week, county administrator Bob Guenzel released a list of options for cutting another $12 million out of the budget, and eliminating up to 181 jobs. Those options – which he stressed are not his recommendations at this point – target non-mandated services, ranging from Head Start to a variety of mental health programs. On Wednesday, Guenzel gave a formal presentation about the options to commissioners, who will be the final arbiters of any budget decisions. The discussion following Guenzel’s presentation could aptly be summarized by this statement from commissioner Conan Smith: “It sucks.”

2010-2011 Budget: What to Cut?

On Wednesday, Guenzel reminded commissioners that at the beginning of 2009 they knew that dealing with the budget crisis would be a full year’s project. The good news, he said, is that they’re on target for the timeline they’d laid out: He’ll present his recommendations for the 2010 and 2011 budget at the board’s Sept. 16 meeting, and they’ll have roughly 2.5 months to deliberate and make modifications before passing the final budget. The bad news, he added, is that the economy isn’t getting any better.

That’s one reason why the projected deficit has grown from $26 million to $30 million – property taxes and other revenue sources are down, while health care and pension costs are up. Even if the board enacted all of the options presented on Wednesday, coupled with $13.69 million in cuts approved at their July meeting, they still need to find an additional $4 million to cover the deficit.

And if the administration can’t squeeze concessions from the 17 bargaining units that represent about 1,000 of the county’s 1,350 workers, then even more jobs and cuts to services will be on the line. Some union leaders, but not all, have agreed to at least talk, even though contracts for union workers run through 2010 or longer, and unions aren’t obliged to revisit those deals. Guenzel updated the board on labor talks during a closed executive session at the end of the meeting. Overall, he noted, “There is no silver bullet to solve this budget issue.”

We refer readers to previous Chronicle coverage of the options outlined in Guenzel’s talk, with details about each of the areas under consideration for cuts. Wednesday’s presentation focused on non-mandatory services. “That doesn’t mean they’re not of value,” Guenzel said. “We’re running out of options is the issue.”

He also said that they’ll need to look at the level of service provided for mandated services. [A report on mandated and discretionary services funded by the county was prepared earlier this year by county staff.] For services mandated by the state, the county in some cases is providing more than the minimum service level required.

Following Guenzel’s presentation, commissioners took turns giving feedback and commentary, and asking questions – no decisions were made about these cost-cutting options at Wednesday’s meeting. It became clear quite quickly that several commissioners did not support certain options on Guenzel’s list.


One of the options calls for eliminating funding for the Justice Project Outreach Team, known as J-PORT, as well as the Homeless Project Outreach Team (H-PORT). The combined programs receive $702,334 in general fund dollars, and employ nearly nine full-time workers.

J-PORT in particular was cited by several commissioners as a valuable program and an effective way to divert people from jail. During the public commentary section of the meeting, Chris Easthope – a 15th District Court judge – said he represented the views of other judges in support of J-PORT. The intent is to help people who are mentally ill and end up in the criminal justice system. Rather than putting them in jail, J-PORT provides support services until they stabilize. Easthope said the program helps prevent jail overcrowding, and saves on jail costs by keeping people out – look at the program as a budget enhancement, he suggested. Easthope also invited commissioners to his courtroom to see the program in action, and offered to sit down with officials from the county and city of Ann Arbor, where he previously served on city council, to explore ways of getting other funding sources for the program.

Commissioner Jeff Irwin said the investment in J-PORT is saving the county money, because it’s extremely expensive to house people in the jail. (Easthope had stated it cost $85 per night.) Commissioner Ken Schwartz said he shared those concerns. The less they spend on J-PORT, he said, the more they’ll spend on corrections. Commissioner Leah Gunn said that not only was J-PORT cost effective, but it also reflected her value system – that people don’t go to jail who don’t belong in jail.

Head Start

Several commissioners also spoke in support of Head Start, a federal program managed locally by the county. Eliminating county support for it entirely would affect 35 county employees for a maximum savings of $765,880.

Commissioner Leah Gunn said the goal of Head Start is to break the chain of poverty, describing it as “a program that works.” Commissioner Kristin Judge said she wanted to take funding cuts for Head Start off the table, saying she’d like to do the same for the option of closing the county’s juvenile detention center.

Commissioner Jessica Ping wanted to get more details about what it would take for the county to pull out of Head Start. She noted that Washtenaw was one of the few counties that supported Head Start to such an extent. Commissioner Mark Ouimet asked whether the county had talked with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) about whether that entity might take over management of Head Start, instead of the county. Guenzel said they’d talked to WISD, but hadn’t made serious moves in that direction.

4-H and other MSU Extension programs

The evening’s public comment sessions were dominated by more than two dozen people supporting the Michigan State University Extension in Washtenaw County, primarily speaking about its 4-H program. Commissioners also heard from master gardeners, a woman who benefited from the extension’s financial counseling, and those who stressed the importance of the extension’s role in fostering economic development through the county’s agricultural sector. Several of the speakers were accompanied by others who stood behind them in a show of silent support.

Speaking first was Doug Lewis, a Milan resident, director of the University of Michigan’s Student Legal Services and a trustee of the Michigan 4-H Foundation. He cited the Al Jarreau song “Tomorrow Today” and said “I spend a lot of my time thinking about tomorrow.” He runs a horse club for kids but he owns all the horses, and he acknowledged that the economy makes that difficult. This past year has been tough, he said. But thinking about how he’s helping sustain the future by working with kids is worth it. He urged the commission to continue its funding for the extension, saying he didn’t want Washtenaw to be the first county in Michigan to lose its 4-H program.

Several teens spoke to the commission, stressing that 4-H was far more than just farm kids and animals. Heather Cook said she’s been a member of 4-H for 12 years, and it gave her the confidence she needed to speak in front of the board that evening. She said that the program has helped her develop leadership skills, and noted that she serves as a youth representative on the 4-H Advisory Council with commissioner Mark Ouimet. Without the MSU extension, she said, there will be no 4-H. (Later in the meeting, commissioner Conan Smith joked, “The most disturbing thing I’ve heard this evening is that the youth of Washtenaw County are being mentored by commissioner Mark Ouimet.” He was teasing.)

Earl Horning said he was a sixth-generation dairy farmer in Freedom Township, where his family has farmed for over 100 years. His entire family has been involved in 4-H, he said. It’s a positive way to spend money, helping the community thrive.

Jennifer Fike, executive director of the Food System Economic Partnership, noted that the MSU extension – and in particular Mike Score, an agricultural innovation counselor with the extension – had been instrumental in launching FSEP and in making a difference in the local farming community. FSEP works with five counties, including Washtenaw, where it’s based, to promote and support farmers and the local food economy.

Mike Bossory, who owns the Alber Orchard and Cider Mill in Freedom Township, said he used to work for manufacturing companies in Saline and Chelsea, which are no longer in business. The MSU extension made it possible for him to make the transition from manufacturing to the agricultural sector, providing help with business planning and other services. He said he has added jobs to the local economy, and anything that can help make that happen is a vital resource.

Dan Sparks-Jackson, nursery manager for Fraleighs Landscape Nursery in Dexter, said that the extension provides support and brings in customers to the business. If you eliminate the extension, he asked, what other organizations can offer the services that it does?

Several people who had participated in the extension’s master gardener program spoke about the importance of that service. Kathie Mahn, president of the Master Gardener Alumni Association of Washtenaw County, cited several programs that serve the community, including a gardening hotline staffed by volunteers, and training provided to residents interested in growing their own food – something that’s been increasingly important in today’s economy, she said. Excess food from many gardens is given to the homeless – another community benefit.

In follow up to public commentary, commissioners Jessica Ping and Mark Ouimet, whose districts cover the western, largely rural half of the county, both said they strongly supported the extension programs. Ouimet said he’d heard others comment about the narrow focus of the extension, but that the public commentary had shown the breadth of services that it provides. Commissioner Ken Schwartz said it was great to see future leaders of the community attend the meeting, and he was especially heartened to see so many young women in leadership.

Mental health services

One of the largest areas being considered for cuts relates to mental health services. That category includes the H-PORT and J-PORT programs mentioned above, but the largest portion of funding goes to the county’s Community Support and Treatment Services department (CSTS). CSTS has a contract with the Washtenaw Community Health Organization – a partnership of the county and UM – to provide a wide range of services for the mentally ill, as well as adults and children with developmental disabilities. Cutting general fund support for CSTS completely would save $1.6 million and eliminate about 82 jobs.

Several county CSTS workers spoke during public commentary. Mary Parker, a job coach with the program, said she’d worked for Washtenaw County for 16 years and has watched the staff work with developmentally disabled residents – they are caring, committed people, she said. She urged commissioners to listen to the staff, saying the work they do is important, and helps parents of developmentally disabled children as well as the community. Audrey Tisdale read a letter from one of those parents, who described the help that CSTS staff had given to her daughter with Down syndrome. Robert Hartman said he’s only worked for CSTS for a year and a half, but that it has been rewarding work. “We’re there because we love those people,” he said. “We want to help. I wouldn’t want to work in any other place.”

Donna Sabourin, CSTS director, told commissioners that the WCHO contracts with CSTS to provide services to county residents and is the primary funder for these services. The county’s general fund pays for 12% of the salaries for CSTS workers. Those salaries are set by union contracts, so they can’t make across-the-board pay cuts. Another factor is that WCHO itself is facing budget cuts from the state, which could affect its budget for CSTS. If county funding for CSTS is eliminated, it’s doubtful that WCHO would be able to increase its funding to sustain the program.

Commissioner Jeff Irwin cited the CSTS care management program – in which workers help residents apply for aid from state and federal agencies – as an example of a program that costs money but has long-term gains. If residents didn’t receive state and federal aid, the county would have more strain on its own programs to provide support for these people. Cutting something like care management is an example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish, he said.

Commissioner Barbara Bergman, who serves on the WCHO board, noted that the entity has a new director, Patrick Barrie, who should be part of these discussions. She said he’s looking at ways to restructure the WCHO budget, which might include more funding for H-PORT and J-PORT. If that’s possible, it could free up general fund dollars in the county for other purposes, possibly CSTS. She said she’d be willing to facilitate discussions with WCHO to address the issue.

Strategic planning

The county’s office of strategic planning is being considered for downsizing or complete elimination, affecting up to seven jobs (including two that are already vacant) and saving as much as $1.1 million.

During public commentary, Michael Bodary, an Ypsilanti city councilmember, said that eliminating strategic planning would have an adverse affect on that city and the eastern part of the county. In particular, he cited brownfield redevelopment services, economic development efforts through Ann Arbor SPARK and neighborhood stabilization services as key to turning around the Ypsilanti community. The office of strategic planning is involved in all of those efforts.

Ed Koryzno, Ypsilanti’s city manager, said he understood the issues facing the board – Ypsilanti has been dealing with budget reductions for several years. He said as the city’s own planning staff has shrunk because of those reductions, they’ve come to rely more on the county’s staff, especially in the area of brownfield redevelopment. He said the county office helped Ypsilanti secure $600,000 in cleanup grants for the Water Street project, for example. The strategic planning staff also is crucial in supporting initiatives like the Eastern Leaders Group, SPARK East and other efforts, Koryzno said.

In addition to the strategic planning office, both Bodary and Koryzno said the MSU extension programs were helpful to the city.

During discussion of the budget options, commissioner Jeff Irwin noted that the fees collected from developers for brownfield redevelopment were designed to cover costs of the program, but that isn’t happening because of the economic slowdown. Commissioner Ken Schwartz clarified that the county acts as the agent for brownfield issues for most of the municipalities in Washtenaw. The question is how townships and villages would handle that, if the county program were eliminated.

Act 88: Economic Development Tax

The one revenue recommendation in Guenzel’s presentation is a potential new tax. Under legislation referred to as Act 88, the county could levy .017 mills – $1.70 for every $100,000 in a property’s taxable value – and raise $256,000 for economic development purposes. The county has committed $200,000 in general fund dollars to support Ann Arbor SPARK, the region’s economic development entity, plus another $50,000 for its Ypsilanti business incubator, SPARK East. If the board approves the new tax, those funds could be used instead of general fund money for SPARK, thus freeing up general fund dollars for other uses.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the county held a public hearing on the possible millage. Jennifer Fike, executive director of the Food System Economic Partnership, urged commissioners to consider agricultural economic development as a possible recipient of the Act 88 dollars. She cited the services that FSEP provides, including a Farm to School program that has helped connect local farmers with buyers like the Ann Arbor Public Schools. One farmer has seen revenues increase by 25% after he gained the University of Michigan as a customer, with the help of FSEP. While other sectors like life sciences and technology are important, farming is also a vibrant contributor to the local economy, she said.

Fike made a specific recommendation for the Act 88 funding. FSEP currently gets $15,000 from the county’s general fund – that amount could instead come from Act 88 dollars, she said. Another $15,000 could be used for the 4-H annual fair, and $26,000 could support the MSU extension’s agricultural innovation work, led by Mike Score. That would still leave $200,000 for SPARK, she said.

Two representatives from SPARK – CEO Mike Finney and Bill Milliken, who helped launch the entity and serves on its board – spoke during the public hearing. They both emphasized the importance of economic development in general, and the accomplishments of SPARK in particular.

Several commissioners were supportive of the new tax. Commissioner Kristin Judge said she’d gotten positive feedback from her constituents about it, but wanted the board to be cautious about adding too many small taxes. [Last year, the board levied a tax of 1/40th of a mill to raise roughly $393,000 annually for veteran services. On a home valued at $100,000, the tax is about $2.50.]

Commissioner Jeff Irwin asked Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, whether agricultural services would be eligible for funding under Act 88 legislation. Hedger said he thought FSEP would qualify, but he wasn’t sure whether Mike Score’s program through the extension would be eligible – the funds have to go to a nonprofit, if not used directly by the county. Irwin said using Act 88 funds was an excellent opportunity to support agricultural economic development.

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson said he wanted to make sure they had a clear understanding of how Act 88 funds would be allocated. It was too easy to shift money between buckets, he said, and if the funds were going into a bucket, he wanted to know which bucket would be getting the money.

Outside agency funding

One of the options presented by Guenzel included full elimination of county support to human services nonprofits, except for what’s mandated. That move would save $1.69 million and not affect any county employees. Another option is to take a 20% reduction in funding for those agencies, in addition to a previously approved 20% cut. Cutting another 20% would save $338,542 in the general fund budget.

In addition, the board agenda included a resolution by commissioner Leah Gunn, who proposed pooling all the dollars for nonprofits into a competitive bid program administered by the joint county/city of Ann Arbor Office of Community Development. The current funding structure requires that nonprofits in the areas of human services and children’s well-being go through the bid process. However, the county had earmarked amounts for certain other nonprofits, including Project Grow, the Neutral Zone and the Blueprint for Aging, among others. Gunn’s resolution would require that those agencies go through a competitive bid process as well, rather than being automatically funded.

Commissioner Wes Prater made a motion to table the resolution until September. He said they should get a better handle on the rest of the budget before moving forward. Gunn countered by saying that her intent wasn’t to lock down the specific dollar amounts in funding, but rather to eliminate the automatic funding.

During the vote to table the resolution, Jeff Irwin passed on his initial turn. Only commissioners Gunn, Conan Smith and Barbara Bergman voted against the motion to table. When the vote came back around to Irwin, he counted the yes votes around the table – then voted yes. This parliamentary move gave him the option of making a motion to reconsider the previous vote, which he did. He stated that they hadn’t had adequate time to debate the postponement, and that he thought tabling Gunn’s resolution was “a really bad idea.” The Office of Community Development needs time to put out its requests for proposals, then work with nonprofits and make evaluations before making funding recommendations to the board, which has final approval. All of this needs to be in place before the first of the year, he said, and pushing it back another month will make it difficult to meet that timeline.

Gunn asked Prater if it would be acceptable to strip out the reference to specific dollar amounts, so that the resolution would focus simply on eliminating the automatic funding. Prater agreed. The motion to reconsider passed, and Gunn amended her resolution, deleting references to the dollar amounts involved.

Kristin Judge pointed out that the dollar amounts won’t be set until the final budget is approved at the end of the year, so there’s no guarantee that nonprofits will receive any county support. Mark Ouimet echoed that sentiment, saying that nonprofits need to know “there may not be any money available.”

Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board’s chair, objected to the idea of adding another layer between the board and the agencies being funded – namely, the Office of Community Development. He said he would not support the amendment. On the amendment, only he and Irwin voted no.  Gunn’s resolution to pool nonprofits in to a competitive bid process passed as amended to eliminate specific dollar amounts.

General questions and comments

Rolland Sizemore Jr. expressed frustration that he hadn’t received answers from the administration on questions that he has asked repeatedly. He said it was his last time to ask, and that next time he “won’t be so nice.” His requests are to 1) get an executive summary of budget-related materials – the proposal presented by Guenzel on Wednesday was an 85-page document; 2) get information on how other communities are handling similar budget reductions, and 3) be presented with a “dummied down” version of the budget so that commissioners can digest it. He also said they needed to be presented with options for both mandated and non-mandated programs, so that they can see the whole budget picture.

Jeff Irwin, too, was frustrated by the “TBD” related to mandated levels of service. He said they haven’t dug deep enough into the issue, and without that, he can’t make decisions about non-mandated services, which often have the biggest bang for the buck.

But Kristin Judge said that mandated programs were already working with extremely limited resources. She didn’t see how there more substantive cuts could be made there. She also said that she wanted the level of detail that she was getting from the administration, not just an executive summary. She asked if the administration could provide a spreadsheet showing how much funding was being leveraged by county dollars. For example, for every general fund dollar that Head Start receives, it’s able to secure an additional $7 from other sources. Having that analysis would give commissioners a clearer picture of which county programs – mandated and non-mandated – are bringing in additional revenue.

Leah Gunn reminded her colleagues that the largest non-mandated service in the county was for police services.

Several commissioners asked residents to help by giving ideas and feedback on how to deal with the budget crisis. Sizemore said they heard a lot about what programs not to cut, but very few people were stepping up to suggest ways of saving these programs. He said he wanted to hear from people in “TV land,” referring to those watching on Community Television Network.

Conan Smith stated that the nearly $12 million in cuts presented by Guenzel wouldn’t solve the crisis, even if they were to enact them all. And since they were talking about saving programs like Head Start and 4-H, they’d need to find ways to cut costs elsewhere.

Union negotiations

Guenzel did not comment on the status of talks with the unions representing county workers, but several commissioners urged union leaders to bring their own ideas to the table and work as a team with administration. “We all need to share in the sacrifices,” Kristin Judge said. Rolland Sizemore Jr. said the unions should bring their own ideas for cost-cutting, and not make the administration and board look like the bad guys for proposing cuts.

Conan Smith, noting that the board had no right to demand contractual changes, pled with the unions to help. He said that he and his wife [Rebekah Warren, who serves in the state legislature as a representative from District 53] are trimming 5% from their household budget, “and it’s not pleasant.” He said the unions would have his eternal gratitude if they helped the county address this budget crisis.

Residents and county staff pack the boardroom during Wednesdays meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.

Residents and county staff pack the boardroom during Wednesday's meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. At the podium, board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr., right, presents a commendation to Lloyd Powell, the county's public defender. (Photo by the writer.)

Present: Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn, Jeff Irwin, Kristin Judge, Mark Ouimet, Ronnie Peterson, Jessica Ping, Wes Prater, Ken Schwartz, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Conan Smith

Next board meeting: The board is working on a summer schedule, with regular meetings held only once a month. They resume their regular schedule in September with their next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St. The Ways & Means Committee meets first, followed immediately by the regular board meeting. [confirm date] (Though the agenda states that the regular board meeting begins at 6:45 p.m., it usually starts much later – times vary depending on what’s on the agenda.) Public comment sessions are held at the beginning and end of each meeting.


  1. By Maya Lynn
    August 8, 2009 at 8:56 pm | permalink

    Wonderfully informative article, Mary, particularly the parts about nonprofit funding, competitive bidding, CSTS and the J-Port programs. This is the kind of detail we seldom got in the AA News.

  2. By John Strotkamp
    August 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm | permalink

    As a former employee of the County’s Mental Health services I’m truly sorry to see the terrible choices being offered.

    Donna Sabourin, Debbie Pippins, Therese Doud and many others are talented, hard working folks and I’m sure they will make the best of a very difficult situation. Unfortunately it’s their customers who will suffer the most, which is really tragic.

    Having lived in California for 11 years I can tell you that compared to California Washtenaw County has exceptional programs for the mentally impaired and it’s sad to see the fiscal problems of Michigan impact them in such a dramatic nature.

    I wish the best for my former colleagues and their customers.

    John Strotkamp, Retired Supervisor-1974-1997, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health
    Laguna Beach, California.

  3. By Richard
    August 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm | permalink

    It is a nice article and I appreciate the coverage.

    I have to say that I am really disappointed with the Board of Commissioners. They all have their pet projects and they all plan to defend them.

    These problems had been evident long before the County realized the budget mess they are currently in.

    They choose to ignore it and hoped it went away and now they are dealing with much bigger mess. Its truly sad, the level of leadership on that board is appalling.

    Excuse me, but Conan Smith begging with the unions for concessions? Really? You cut five percent from your household budget? Really? It is beyond offensive, you are laying people off in one of the worst economies and we are supposed to cry for you because you cut 5 percent of your household budget? Come on…

    The County negotiated with the unions less than two years ago when signs of the economic downturn were becoming apparent.

    This whole affair is really sad…Had the county outlined some basic priorities and funded too them, instead of throwing money at every program with or without merit, the damage wouldn’t be near as bad as it is right now.

    This whole situation is very frustrating….

  4. By Jim Adams
    August 11, 2009 at 2:20 pm | permalink

    Richard said it. and his beliefs are reflected in our union leadership
    Union 2733 has no desire to make concessions. They are fine with layoffs.
    Act now
    Union members who feel your union is not representing you in negotiations. Union Decertification is possible and starts with only 30% dissatisfied union member signatures. And more than 30% of you should be worried about your jobs if concessions are not made.
    Go to this website for more info: link
    When Richard is asked if he would take a 5 percent cut or lose 30 % of staff. He will answer with what is the administration giving up (answer jobs and 5 percent over two years & medical coverage benefits) or he will say look at all the pet projects. Its just a stall tactic, and is not relevant at this time
    Richard doesn’t care about people losing jobs. He is only concerned with himself. Its people like Richard who will be laying people off in these economic times, not the board of commissioners. This entitlement union seniority gives its employees is disgusting and makes them act less then heavenly.
    Over 200 people will lose their jobs and thousands more people will be affected negatively in this community by lack of funding to needed programs because leaders of union 2733 thinks they are entitled to salary increases and great medical coverage when everyone else in this county will be taking concessions. Disgusting Richard. When you are drinking your egg nog, sitting next to your Christmas tree surrounded with gifts this holiday season, please take a moment to think about those 200 hundred employees that are living in basements, maxing out there credit to feed their families, and losing their homes. I bet you will smile.
    Concessions need to be made. Pet projects in the counties past is not logical or good reason to not help these 200 hundred people. Get over it and help your fellow county employees. The administration & commissioners are on the side of the people of Washtenaw County and saving jobs. Union 2733, what side are you on. Make a decision that you can live with.

  5. By Richard
    August 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm | permalink


    I don’t know if you actually read my post, but I find it very offensive that you would attack me personally.

    For the record, I am not part of the union, nor have I ever been. You also know nothing of my personal history.

    And, for the record, I find it offensive that you use me as a proxy to push your anti-union rhetoric.

    For the record, I was criticizing an innappropriate comment by Commissioner Smith regarding cutting his household income when the board was poised to layoff hundreds of employees.

    Further, if you read my post, which you clearly did not, the County Administration and the Board negotiated those union contracts when they were very much aware of the impending economic crisis.

    Their failure to address the situation then, has only compounded the problem now. It is the lack of leadership on the board that is frustrating.

    Your anti-union rhetoric is innapproriate.

  6. By Jim Adams
    August 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm | permalink

    sorry Richard
    i really jumped to a lot of assumptions. its just a sad time and its frustrating that people are not focused on fixing the problem. there is just a lot of finger pointing going on, and nothing is getting done.
    i felt Comm Smith’s comment was appropriate, because 5% is what non-union is taking as a cut, and that is what all the unions should do also. Comm Smith did it. Non-union did it. Its the economy we are in. its not pleasant, but its better then losing hundreds of people.

  7. By Richard
    August 11, 2009 at 5:15 pm | permalink


    It is a frustrating time and I don’t think its fair to blame the situation on the unions.

    The County Board of Commissioners and the Administration grew the County buracracy to levels that have proven to be unsustainable.

    When County revenues were growing by 10 percent annually, they spent as if it would never end and they created departments and functions with little regard for either the need or the potential impact.

    Today…we are seeing the results of their failures, including Commissioner Smith, who is a major disappointment and shows very little leadership.

    In the future, if you have a problem with the unions or with the County, I would ask that you be a little more respectful of other people’s posts. I did not attack you and I don’t appreciate being unfairly attacked by you.

    If you have a problem with the unions, its your business, but keep me out of it.