Monday, August 29, 2011

Evanston Citizens Fight to Keep Public Services in Public Hands

From Community Labor Alliance for Public Services

Evanston, Illinois -- The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) is organizing Evanston residents to stop the privatization of at least nine public services and associated job losses. Such services include Recycling, Street Lights, Street Maintenance, and Parks and Forestry.

At an August 8th Evanston City Council meeting, the City Manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, recommended the possible privatization of services as part of the city’s 2012 budgeting process. According to the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 31/Local 1891, over 60 jobs are threatened by the proposal, and many of the jobs are held by Evanston residents living in the historically African-American 2nd and 5th wards. The proposed city budget will be made public on October 7th, and City Council will vote on the final budget November 28th.

Besides the job losses, residents are concerned about the loss of accountability and quality as well as increased costs associated with contracting to private vendors. Many Evanston residents have complained about the garbage pick-up services the city contracted to Groot Industries last November. Citizens are now required to talk to the company with service complaints rather than the city, which has created a second level of bureaucracy. Groot also raised its’ price by $700,000 after four months into the contract.

The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) is an advocacy organization formed by concerned Evanston residents and public sector workers to fight further privatization of City services. CLAPS has successfully organized a petition drive, collecting almost 2000 signatures to date from Evanston residents opposing privatization. CLAPS has been mobilizing residents to attend and speak at City Council meetings and reaching out to various community, student, and religious organizations, who are pledging their support for public sector workers and to maintain quality services. CLAPS' mission is to bring awareness to City of Evanston residents about the value of keeping public services in-house, educate the community about the hidden costs of privatizing public services, keep public service jobs in the community, and lobby local decision makers about the importance of accountability, flexibility and safety in the delivery of services to the community.

If the City Council passes a budget eliminating public services and public sector jobs, CLAPS has vowed to continue organizing and mobilizing citizens until all public services are securely restored.


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