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Archive for Friday, July 8, 2011

Statehouse Live: Brownback says he is willing to consider options to closure of Lawrence SRS office

July 8, 2011, 11:36 a.m. Updated July 8, 2011, 4:48 p.m.

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Brownback says he will consider alternatives to closing SRS offices

Gov. Sam Brownback says he will consider alternatives to closing Social and Rehabilitation Services offices as long as the department is still able to meet its budget. The department announced Friday, July 1, 2011, that it would close nine offices, including the Lawrence office, which has 87 employees. Enlarge video

— In the face of increasing opposition, Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday said he would be willing to consider options to his administration’s decision last week to close nine state welfare agency offices, including the one in Lawrence.

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. announced last week that he intended to shut down the offices as a cost-cutting move. The Lawrence office, with 87 employees, was by far the largest one.

Brownback has defended the move as necessary to comply with a budget he signed into law that cut SRS by $42 million, including $1 million in administrative expenses.

He has said SRS clients — low-income families, people with disabilities and children — could travel for assistance to nearby cities, such as Topeka, Overland Park and Ottawa. Opponents of the closure say that isn’t reasonable.

But when asked Friday if the closure decisions could be appealed, he said, “We'll work with the SRS office and Secretary Siedlecki on that. But if people are willing to come up with alternate options so that we can save money that we need to save that was put forward in the budget and set by the Legislature, I'm sure willing to look at options and I know Secretary Siedlecki will too.”

The Brownback administration’s decision in Lawrence has caused a huge public outcry, especially from law enforcement and social service advocates.

The Douglas County Democratic Party has invited former SRS Secretary Robert Harder to speak to a meeting at 10 a.m. today at the Lawrence Public Library, and legislative leaders are hosting a public meeting on the issue at 7 p.m. Monday at Plymouth Congregational Church.

Statewide, communities where offices have been slated for closure are trying to get more information about the decision. Many legislators, Republicans and Democrats, have said they were caught off-guard when SRS made the announcement late Friday before the July 4th three-day weekend.

State Rep. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, was quoted in the Fort Scott Tribune as urging residents to contact the governor’s office to express their opinion about the planned closure of the Fort Scott SRS office. “I’m not sure (SRS did) ... it’s due diligence,” she said. Other offices being closed are in Coffeyville, Garnett, Lyndon, Marysville, McPherson, Pratt and Wellington.

One month prior to the announcement, Siedlecki toured the Lawrence office with local legislators. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Siedlecki made no mention that the office would be closed. And Davis called it a “cowardly move by this administration” to make the announcement before a holiday weekend.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 9 months ago

Maybe the clients in Ottawa will use the Ottawa office. Aren't all SRS offices able to assist any SRS client?

The caseload in Lawrence may very well drop. Of the 150 in attendance at the meeting,how many were actually clients? Of the clients how many actually voted for Brownback or not voted at all?

Who really cares. No one except the employees at the Lawrence office. Use space at Bert Nash.

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

he needs to talk about it with his buddies the koch brothers first.

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William Weissbeck 2 years, 9 months ago

I hope the press has caught on to Brownback's tactics. If it's a Friday - expect layoffs, firings and agency closings. No public input.

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

why does the state of kansas use georgia pacific products ? Georgia Pacific is owned by the Koch Brothers.

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Lacy Mohler 2 years, 9 months ago

Is this going to be related to appointment of judges again?

Brownback will restore the Arts Commission if he is allowed more control of judicial appointments.

Brownback won't close KNI if he is allowed more control of judicial appointments.

Brownback will reopen the SRS offices if he is allowed more control fo judicial appointments.

Of course we know what will happen. As soon as Fuehrer Brownback receives more control over judicial appointments the Arts Commision, KNI and SRS offices will be the first to go.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

I attended today's meeting and was glad to see all the people that came to stand up against this travesty of so called "leadership" for our state. It was informative, and at times heart wrenching. I can only hope and PRAY (I am a Christian) that many more will attend Monday night's meeting, and that, at the very least, many more will also send letters and e-mails to the Governor's (it's so hard not to say "tyrant's office) to express concerns, and disdain about the way this whole mess has been handled by Brownback and his cronies, as well as to offer up suggestions for a feasible resolution. In addition, I urge people to DEMAND that there be transparency about records and data, as this has been impossible to obtain willingly from the Brownback administration. Power to the people of Kansas! and God bless those who are suffering and in need.


I just went to Brownback's web site.. brownback.com .. and found that the site is down for "updates". Well, Mr. Governor, isn't that so very convenient of you to close down your web site in the wake of all that is happening against your policies currently!!! You are a COWARD.. and this is just another shining example of that, in addition to the chicken @@@@ way you have handled all your decision making thus far. This man really should be impeached!!!

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bertwilkey 2 years, 9 months ago

Hold on to your hats....this is just the beginning of things to come with SRS, officials of which say we "can't let compassion get in the way of doing the right thing" and that they can't help that people will be hurt....that is just the times. Expect more changes.....vouchers for all social services, even for services provided by non-licensed providers; selling state mental health hospitals to private, for profit companies ( keep your eyes on Geo, Inc which privatized state hospitals in Florida, privatizing sex offender treatment facility at Larned, shutting down admissions to state hospitals, etc, etc.
You ain't seen nothin' yet!

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Jimo 2 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if one of those options is a surtax on the Koch Bros. wealth?

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm on my way to the meeting at the library this morning. I sure hope that those that really care about the people in need in our community will be there also... and Monday night too!

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Electrical8Eel 2 years, 9 months ago

Brownback used to attend St. Anne's in Prairie Village, a well-known Catholic church deep in Opus Dei.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

..."blah blah blah blah blah blah blah....."

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Electrical8Eel 2 years, 9 months ago

As the cliche goes "Talk is cheap." The same for Gov. Brownback. For the past several months someone I know has had to go to UPS and pay $3, three times to send information to a vocational rehabilitation counselor located in Overland Park. And, no, she was never reimbursed. SRS refused to send it for her. So Brownback's been working on this plan a lot longer than we know. Brownback confuses the statehouse with his own version of religious beliefs. (I am also Catholic). I am not impressed with his need to visit other states to congregate with other politicians in prayer. The fact remains that an unborn child is just as sacred as a newborn infant, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary school-aged child and teenager, young adult, middle-aged adults, and elderly folks. This fact has become confused in the minds of voters. Since there are so many roads leading to Lawrence, KS, then Lawrence should be more of a central hub, as it has been. Brownback needs to wake up. I noticed his web site is down. Can't take the heat? Aw....

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PaladKik 2 years, 9 months ago

SRS could band together with Planned Parenthood and Association of Community Organizations (ACORN) renting one of the shuttered business fronts on Mass street. Or maybe the Masonic temple would be a good place for them to hole up.

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hpp422 2 years, 9 months ago

By the way did anyone notice the price of gas in Lawrence went up 24 cents a gallon today. That'll be good news for all those folks that have to drive to Topeka or Ottawa or Overland Park for services.........not!

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why_me 2 years, 9 months ago

There is a running joke at SRS about 5:00 Friday press releases.....today it was a 4:45 email.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 9 months ago

All of the articles have been vague in the Journal World. Is the $300,000 savings derived from not paying rent and utilites? Is this an annual savings?

How much is the rent on the building and/or SRS space? I am sure the state doesn't own the building. What is the real story going on here.

If SRS must have space in Lawrence, move the staff, some of them, to Bert Nash. It's off the tax rolls and they can make space in that building, if that's not good enough, then put the staff in the Morton concrete buildings where the new "water splash park" will be. A one stop shop and play space.

Something is entirely missing in the story and Davis, Sloan, marci have not revealed the facts yet, Why waste time inviiting a former SRS secretary. What's he got to do with anything?

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tange 2 years, 9 months ago

Brownback said, "We'll work with the SRS office and Secretary Siedlecki on that...."

Sam Brownback Restoration: "We Can Nix That!"

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lawslady 2 years, 9 months ago

Here's an a couple of ideas for cuts, Mr. Governor -

  1. Stop the Legislature from adopting resolutions in bill form. A resolution has NO legal impact. It's simply an expression of official opinion by the majority who approve its passage. And it is estimated (By your own Legislative Post Audit and Research staff) that each such "bill" costs about $5,000 (adding in staff time, printing costs, distribution of the 100's of copies etc.). If you add up that $5,000 for each house/senate resolution passed each session, it easily exceeds $300,000. If the Legislature wants to express itself, do so in a LETTER that everyone can sign or vote on. One letter. Done.

  2. Stop holding meetings (especially secret meetings) on so many things, when taxes pays for them. Is there really a crying need for $13,000 tax dollars to be spent on the state of marriage in the state when programs that promote economic gains or prevent future costs must be sacrificed so you can have one more "talking head" moment where policy is secretly decided? If you want to hold such gatherings, do so in your own homes and with your own money. Isn't that the Republican conservative mantra?

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billbodiggens 2 years, 9 months ago

They shut down a huge number of offices in the western two thirds of the state maybe ten years ago. No squawk from the rest of the state about that. The old, lame, halt, disabled and down and out were told to travel, use the internet or telephone. Sound familiar? Did not make any sense then and does not make any sense now. In other words the current and apparently long lasting theory of social services in Kansas is to quite moaning and just tough it out - “we’re sorry you hurt or are in trouble, but you certainly should not expect the state to lift a finger for help. Maybe you could just move out of state.” Yes-sirree-Bob, compassion is running rampant in Kansas.

On the other hand the SRS model of services could possible be adopted for other areas of concern. Cities could band together and have a joint life saving service operate out of a central area for the various municipal pools. Replace each lifeguard stand with a telephone booth. Heck, the legislature itself could save thousands upon thousands by simply going to one phone. Everybody could contact their legislature through the one phone and leave a message. Or, we could even share a governor with Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and/or Colorado. I am certain we would all be taken care of in fine style.

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gudpoynt 2 years, 9 months ago

Another option would be to look for non-critical expenses being paid by the state general fund (i.e. capital building improvements). Any way that non-critical SGF expenses could be put on hold?'

But the bottom line, imho, is that a Lawrence office with fewer employees, that may serve fewer clients, is better than no office at all.

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gudpoynt 2 years, 9 months ago

$300K isn't that much really. It's 10 FTE positions at a salary of $30K.

Surely there's a way to eliminate 10 FTE positions within the SRS system of the whole state of KS. Perhaps 10 could be eliminated in the Lawrence office alone.

While it doesn't seem likely that the same level of benefit can be achieved by clients commuting to neighboring offices or simply using the Internet, perhaps there ARE some SRS services that are extraneous given other community resources. Maybe we could find out what those are and see if we could eliminate positions that way.

I'd be interested to see what there communication infrastructure is like. Oftentimes, offices find themselves paying somebody a salary to do the job of what a handful of smartphones could do. I'd look to see if modest investments in newer technologies could trim personnel needs.

The building donation idea is interesting too, although, in the case of the school district, I don't see them readily giving up an asset like an entire building for nothing when they themselves are so strapped for cash.

Check out the SRS budget (http://bit.ly/nTUwT4 -- page 105) and see where you think you could find some money. Let us know if you have any ideas, either here, or in the meeting on Monday.

btw - the ironic thing that gets me, is that of the 87 employees that will be forced to other offices, how many will simply quit SRS and find a job where they don't have to move or commute? If it's about 10 or greater at $30K FTE, then there's your $300K right there.

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gudpoynt 2 years, 9 months ago

Don't be so quick to dismiss BB's public acknowledgement of opposition as lip service.

We live in a world where one of the most powerful media moguls in the world is willing to cut off an extremely profitable limb after a mere week or two of bad press.

This isn't your grandfather's political activism. Today, we possess greater access to information and ability to coordinate efforts than ever before in the history of the world.

Go to the meeting on Monday, and come prepared with sound alternatives to closing the Lawrence SRS office, and a realistic, effective way to communicate those to the Governor's office.

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JohnSickels 2 years, 9 months ago

Keep the pressure up, folks.

So far I've contacted Tom Sloan, Marci Francisco, and Barbara Ballard. I haven't heard from Ballard, but both Sloan and Francisco told me that they oppose the closing of the SRS office and are working to convince the administration to change its mind. I doubt they will listen to Marci, but Sloan (who wrote me a very detailed and helpful reply to my message) might have a bit more clout since he's a Republican.

I also called Brownback's office and raised hell, emphasizing that while I am a Democrat, I HAVE voted for Republicans before, but there's no chance I would ever do so again if those goes through. I pointed out all the detrimental effects this would have on many innocent people, and pointed out that people in Lawrence (even Republicans I know) believe this move was politically motivated to punish the city.

The young man I spoke with told me they are hearing a lot about this topic, almost all of it negative, and that people are very angry.

Keep making phone calls and writing letters, folks. There is a chance this can be reversed. Maybe a small chance, maybe this is just lip service. But he wouldn't feel the need for lip service if they weren't feeling some legitimate pressure.

We know they won't listen to Democrats, but if Republicans and independents speak out, they might listen. Keep pushing.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Brownback is trying get all concerned to shut up about it.

Obviously he does not know what he is doing.

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LHS56 2 years, 9 months ago

What did we expect him to say???? The decision is final?? Brownie is simply giving us lip service hoping the problem will go away with time. WE NEED TO KEEP THE HEAT ON!!!! He will continue to bob and weave but perhaps the voting public will see more of the true person that was elected to the highest office in our State. And...another three years. Father Brownbeck....sounds about right. He believes he is right and we need to learn the way.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

This is nothing but a sleight of hand. Make idiotic cuts that few can agree with, then backtrack while still making big cuts in the SRS budget, and call it a "compromise."

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RiverCityConservative 2 years, 9 months ago

He's going to have to get his hands dirty on this one.

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RiverCityConservative 2 years, 9 months ago

Is this the state priest or the governor? Got away with a lot the first six months. Separation of church and state. It's worked for nearly 250 years. Must be a reason...

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RiverCityConservative 2 years, 9 months ago

Don't cancel the town meetings. Don't cut him any slack right now. Don't assume anything will change without a real tussle of wills over this one.

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deec 2 years, 9 months ago

Maybe Dougie can donate a building as payback for all the freebies he's gotten from local, state and federal governments over the years. Isn't there office space in that new project at 9th and N.H.?

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wowiekt08 2 years, 9 months ago

This better not be a bunch of false hope for the people of Lawrence.

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autie 2 years, 9 months ago

A. there is no such thing as a free building. there will be cost with having it open and maintained.

B. "We'll work with the SRS office and Secretary Siedlecki on that. But if people are willing to come up with alternate options so that we can save money that we need to save that was put forward in the budget and set by the Legislature, I'm sure willing to look at options and I know Secretary Siedlecki will too." That is nothing but lip service and they will do nothing.

  1. lies
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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

sounds like a free city or county owned building (like a closed school) for SRS is in order.

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