City workers, activists protest mayor's plan to cut jobs, services

June 06, 2001|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Hundreds of city workers and community activists packed Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church last night to denounce the mayor's plan to slash basic services and outsource municipal jobs to make up a shortfall in next year's budget.

"When you fire workers, you'll be looking at more boarded-up houses in the city," said Glen Middleton, president of Local 44 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, an organizer of the event at the church at Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane.

Mayor Martin O'Malley and other officials have struggled to figure out how to balance the city's books in the next fiscal year.

Monday, the council gave preliminary approval to increases in the city's income and energy taxes.

If the increases receive final approval from the council this month, they could save as many as 150 jobs and prevent the loss of recreation centers, pools and some trash collection.

Even with the revenue boost, officials say, they might privatize about 200 jobs, mostly custodial and security positions. That possibility had many angry at the mayor last night.

"Here's a man who talks about cleaning up the city. ... How can you clean up the crime and grime if you lay off the janitors?" said Charles Robinson Sr., a heavy-equipment operator for the city.

Council President Sheila Dixon and other council members, some of whom attended the rally, have been pushing the mayor to back away from the privatization plan, arguing he should give the workers a chance to show they can cut costs.

"I do think things are changing at City Hall as a result of pressure," said Mitch Klein, a spokesman for the nonprofit Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose members attended last night's meeting.

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