From the Desk of the President (January, 2009)

2009 Budget: Thank you to all of you who took time from your busy work schedules to attend the County Board meetings on the 2009 budget. Your presence was noted by the Commissioners, the Managers, your coworkers and the public. The charge laid out to the Departments by County Administrator Richard Johnson was a tough one - figure out how to continue providing services The Department heads had to make hard choices on county staff vs. contracted services. Tom Merkel, Director for Community Corrections, defended the decision he made to put resources into keeping line staff as opposed to renewing a contract for a vendored service when questioned by the Commissioners and we, as line staff, thank him for that as it meant that our sister and brother Probation Officers would have resources to do their work. As noted last month, we saw 10 Social Worker/Senior Social Worker positions put back into the budget as a cost neutral line item thanks to the amendment offered by Commissioner Johnson. This will allow Hennepin County services to be offered to waiver clients once more. We did not see the number of amendments to add money back to the contracted services as had been done in years past and those offered were tempered by the reality of the budget news from the federal and state forecasts. Commissioner McLaughlin added one last amendment to the budget which put vendors on notice that if we lose funding from the state and federal streams, they will see cuts in their contracts just like we will see cuts in our resources. That amendment passed and is now part of the 2009 budget.

Dan Engstrom, Human Services and Public Health Department Director, sent an e- mail out to all HSPHD staff letting us know that, based on the attrition and vacancy counts, there are no plans to have lay-offs as of the end of this year. That is good news for those of our folks who are at the low end of the seniority lists and gives us a bit of breathing room. We do, however, need to watch the ongoing state and federal budgets as they, along with the county, will be in constant flux based on the economy. If you have any ideas on how savings can be realized in your work area, please forward them on to Richard Johnson, as he truly does want to know what they are. If they have merit, they will be pursued. Something as simple as printing double-sided can save thousands of dollars annually.

2009 Day on the Hill: This event will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, March 10-11, 2009. It is our opportunity to – as a large body wearing our AFSCME green – meet with our sisters and brothers to agitate for our needs with our elected Senators and Representatives at the State Capitol. Keep your eyes open for more information about election of delegates to this event in the February 2009 newsletter.

Officer Elections: You will receive a notice about nominations for all officer positions to be held at the February and March General Assemblies. If you have ever wondered what the job duties are for a particular position and wanted information, please talk to the current office holder or me. We can send you a copy of the constitution and standing rules as well as answer your questions about the nuts and bolts of the job. It is fun, it is hard work, and it is rewarding to serve the members of Local 34 as we make our local stronger and more vibrant with every gain we achieve.

”In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” – Robert Frost.  

I look forward to going on with our collective Hennepin County and Local 34 lives with you in 2009 as we do our work and strive to enrich the lives of our clients and our members.