by Aimee Levitt
Whatever the opposite of a Grinch is, that's what East St. Louis mayor Alvin L. Parks, Jr., is trying to be.
Upon hearing that his city was planning to lay off nineteen police officers, four public works workers, two dispatchers and one jailer in addition to the thirteen firefighters who had already lost their jobs this month, Parks pledged to give up half his salary to save some of the cops' jobs.
Parks makes $50,000 a year. It's unclear how far $25,000 would go (half an officer, based on data from Salary.com), but the mayor is hoping that other city employees will follow his lead. Maybe this ploy will be more successful than the time Parks tried to persuade East St. Louisans that an FBI search of his office was a good thing.
Those nineteen officers, by the way, comprise about one-third of the city's 62-person police force. Kendall Perry, president of the East St. Louis lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police told the Belleville News Democrat he was afraid that the loss of cops, "overtime will skyrocket, and it's possible crime will skyrocket, too."
East St. Louis has been struggling for the past several weeks to balance its $22 million budget. Originally it considered issuing mandatory furloughs as a way of saving the cops' jobs, but that's no longer an option after a federal arbitrator ruled that furloughs interfered with contract negotiations.
Instead, reports the News Democrat, the officers "were awarded back pay and raises that had been withheld, including 4.5 percent raises for 2006, 2007 and 2008, 2.5 percent raises for 2009 and 2010, and a 3-percent raise in 2011."
The city employees scheduled for layoffs January 1 had been notified by a letter that came in their paychecks last week. A special city council meeting was scheduled for last Friday, but only Parks and one other councilman bothered to show up. A make-up meeting for Monday was also canceled so the city council could meet with members of the police union. The council is scheduled to reconvene tomorrow, December 23. Let's see if that one actually happens.