In the month of June quite a lot has happened already, and there’s yet another Special Board Meeting scheduled for Friday, June 18th. This one is for an Executive Session so most of it will be held behind closed doors and the trustees may or may not bring anything back to vote on when they return from that closed session. Public comments are allowed for those attending in person who sign up when entering before the meeting begins, or can be submitted via email by 5:30 PM to Executive Director Susan Dove Lempke at firstname.lastname@example.org
The great news that came out on June 14th is that the employees of Niles-Maine District Library are forming a union with AFSCME! Read about it here:
Niles-Maine library employees form union with AFSCME
On June 14th the board also held a special board meeting to review the budget, where they were supposed to come to an agreement, though it was difficult because Joe Makula showed up with his own budget document that he sprang on everyone at the meeting without anyone else being able to see it in advance. Joe’s verison came not only with a column added for his cuts, but with typos and some new amounts that he couldn’t explain or describe when asked, so everyone had to wait until June 16th to find out whether the cuts were really so deep that the board planned to cut many library workers’ jobs or some or none.
June 16th was the regular monthly meeting of the board, though as with all of the other recent board meetings there were many irregularities. After an attempt by the new trustees to move public comments to the end of the meeting was abandoned, the public saw our letter-writing campaign make a difference, as one of the in-person commenters was Niles Mayor Alpogianis. He urged the trustees to work together and build bridges not walls, and pointed out that people see what’s going on, that the board is arguing about things like moving public comments (and he recommended they bring a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order to their meetings), and that there is a lot of chatter that doesn’t sound good. His own 5 children have used the library hundreds and hundreds of times and he would drop them off at the library and he felt safe, that a library is supposed to be a safe place (clearly making reference to Joe Makula’s strange complaints about children going to the library after school without their parents).
We also noticed that former Maine Township trustee David Carrobatta , who appears to be advising Carolyn Drblik, has been allowed by her to interject from the audience throughout recent meetings. On Wednesday he made clear that schools are coming up on their hit list, and we noticed that he said the quiet part out loud regarding firing library staff, with his “Cut staff? Boy I hope you do!” Cruel and heartless.
The “up to” $1,500 disbursement to Steven Yasell was tabled without any explanation. For now we’ll take that as a win. To date 102 letters have been sent through our letter-writing campaign ”Reject the Corrupt Contract”, and the Mayor of Niles indicated in his public comment that he’d received over 150 emails, calls and texts from people who are concerned about what has been going on at the library. But we’re keeping an eye on this, as the board may just be biding time in hopes that we’ll stop paying attention.
Right now, the cuts to our library’s staffing is where we are focusing our attention and concern. At one point Trustee Drblik said that she didn’t think we were talking about cutting jobs, just cutting dollars. But when cutting payroll dollars it does mean either cutting staff or cutting their wages. She has suggested more than once that if things change later in the year that they can revisit and adjust the budget, but that’s really not an accurate representation of how budgeting works, and it’s extremely unlikely they’d go through the great deal of work involved in increasing the budget mid-year. So it’s important to make sure our voices are heard between now and the July 20th 6:30 PM meeting when the final budget for the next fiscal year will be voted on.
We’ll be keeping you informed if the board adds any more special meetings this month, and sharing actions you can take in July to support our library and the library workers our community depends on.