This month I had the honor of giving a commendation for a young lady in our district for her incredible achievements in both athletics and academics. Among her extensive accomplishments, High School Senior Meryl Swidler achieved the rank of 2nd degree black belt, is the 2013 and 2014 reigning National Champion and 2013 World Champion in Creative Forms, Creative Weapons and Extreme Forms through the World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC), and won the 2014 U.S. National Championship Gold Medal winner for Low Kick, Girls 16-17 years through the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO). She is a great young lady with a bright future ahead of her.
The February 2015 meeting focused primarily on the $2.5 million anticipated budget shortfall created by the Sheriff’s cancellation of the county’s intergovernmental agreement for the housing of 95 federal inmates. This issue has been heavily discussed in the press, but unfortunately many of us who serve on the Judicial Public Safety Committee (JPSC) are still waiting for the promised evidence from the Sheriff supporting his move. Here is a basic timeline of how information was shared:
- December 12, 2014: Sheriff Kramer attended his first JPSC and gave a brief rundown of his plans to deploy more deputies on the street. He then introduced his new command staff.
- December 15, 2014: Sheriff’s Office begins draw down of the federal inmates. This is 3 days after the JPSC meeting, where there was no discussion, or even hint that this was in the works. One would hope the department had put more than 72 hours thought into this decision which could ultimately cost the county $2.5 million
- January 7, 2015: Sheriff Kramer reaches out to the Marshal’s office asking to rescind the request and reinstate the program in “full force.” US Marshals indicate that they have made alternate arrangements and begin draw down. Over 40 prisoners removed, reflecting an estimated $140k loss in revenue designated for the Sheriff’s Office monthly moving forward in FY2015.
- January 15, 2015: JPSC meets for the second time of the new term. Sheriff Kramer states for the first time that this was a safety concern. Promises evidence to support his decision is forthcoming.
- February 4, 2015: Executive Committee unanimously passes a budget amendment to reduce the Sheriff’s budget to reflect the loss of income in which his budget is based. Sheriff warns of Public Safety concerns that will result, and promises to personally call each member of JPSC as well as Executive Committee before we take action on this issue at the full county board. No calls received. Board members learn the Marshals have reduced their population to “1 or 2” from the initial 95 in which the budget was based, meaning the Board will have further cuts to make.
- February 10, 2015: Full County Board unanimously passes a resolution to reduce the Sheriff’s budget by $250k which corresponds to the loss of income since the draw down.
- February 24, 2015: Sheriff Kramer will again speak to the issue at JPSC and provide the evidence supporting his action.
It should be noted that during this time the Sheriff lost his father. My heart goes out to him. Having lost my mother nearly 13 years ago I know how much of a hole that can leave.
But the questions remain, what is the real reason this occurred? If the Sheriff really was concerned about the safety of his men in the jail, why not bring it up at the December 12th JPSC? Why have there been no reports of concerns made to the JPSC over the last 8 years from either the Sheriff or the employee’s union? Why did the jail pass all safety inspections by the US Marshals as well as the State of Illinois? If the sheriff had a need for more staffing, why not bring it to JPSC on December 12th before eliminating the program 3 days later? If we shouldn't change the Sheriff’s budget to reflect the loss of income, which budget do we cut? Should the State’s Attorney stop prosecuting criminals? Maybe the Judicial Branch should take a holiday. Maybe we eliminate road construction or storm water mitigation? Do we shutter Animal Control or the Health Department? Aren't all of these functions aspects of Public Safety?
In the end, it’s important to understand that I personally like the Sheriff. Don is a great guy and has a great family. I want nothing more than for him to not only exceed, but to excel in his term as Sheriff. If he fails - the county fails. We’re all ears. What can we do to solve this mess? That is the most important question of all, and it needs to be answered yesterday.
Here's a link to the video of the meeting.