City workers, residents plead for jobs and services at last publ - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

City workers, residents plead for jobs and services at last public hearing

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Hundreds of residents and city workers turned out to make one last passionate plea to save their jobs and city services at the last public hearing on the budget.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis weighed in on the issue. He sent a letter with his idea to Mayor Mallory on Wednesday morning. Sheriff Leis wants to merge city police officers with county deputies.

The proposal has many city officers, like Barnabas Blank, seeing red.

For the second year in the row, Blank's holiday plan includes making a back-up plan-- one that could include moving his family out of the city, and out of the state, if he loses his job.

"This is my home," Blank said. "I love my home. Thinking about it just kind of upsets me a little."

Blank spoke at the last public hearing on the budget. Hundreds packed the Clifton Cultural Arts Center for the hearing. And Blank's not alone.  More than 40 people pleaded their cases. Even the Queen City's youngest citizens wanted to put their two cents in on the issue.

"If you guys want to fire the police officers and the firefighters, why do it?" said 10-year-old Jack Fronduti. "If you do, lives could be in danger like someone else said."

Hamilton County Sheriff Leis sent the mayor a letter with his plan on how to help plug the City's $60-million budget gap. He asked the Mayor to merge city officers with county deputies. Under the plan, patrol officers would report to him. All other members of the Cincinnati Police Department would report to the Chief. Both agencies would cut duplicate positions, and Leis said the plan could save the city at least 20-percent per officer. That's because deputies make less money than city police officers so city patrol officers would take a pay cut.

Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls said she first heard about the idea over the weekend in a meeting with the Sheriff and council members Berding and Bortz.

"Our job is to balance the budget," said Qualls. "Our job is to do it in a way that actually ensures that the citizens of Cincinnati are safe, and one of the ways that we can do that is look very seriously at Sheriff Leis' proposal."

But Mayor Mallory disagrees.

In a letter to the Sheriff, he wrote that the idea is an "insult to the proud tradition of the Cincinnati police department's 207 year history."

Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell said the plan won't work and it's not legal.

"When the deputies were in Over-the-Rhine several years ago, they didn't have to follow those same standards," Harrell said. "The citizens of Cincinnati, I believe the groups within Cincinnati, would not like to see Simon Leis come in and it would be a very large and legal battle if he attempts to."

The budget has to be balanced by the end of the month, but as a last resort, City Manager Milton Dohoney said Council can go into a continuation mode and operate for three months without a balanced budget.

On top of all of this, the local FOP and firefighters' unions have been asked to reopen their contracts with the city to save 270 jobs. That deadline was Wednesday night at 8 pm. Union leaders told FOX19 they never officially received the motion from the city so they're not taking any action.


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