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Archive for Monday, July 11, 2011

Live blog: Monday night’s public forum on closure of Lawrence SRS office

A crowd fills Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont Street, for a public forum on Gov. Sam Brownback's administration's decision to close the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The forum was held Monday, July 11, 2011.

A crowd fills Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont Street, for a public forum on Gov. Sam Brownback's administration's decision to close the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The forum was held Monday, July 11, 2011.

July 11, 2011, 5:26 p.m. Updated July 11, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

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SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki discusses closure of Lawrence office

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki spoke with Lawrence Journal-World editors Monday, July 11, 2011, about the planned closure of the Lawrence SRS office. Siedlecki said there was no chance the Lawrence office will be spared closure, but maintained there will be some SRS presence in the city. Enlarge video

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Tweets from tonight's meeting about closing the Lawrence SRS office

Local legislative leaders are having a public forum tonight to discuss the recent decision by Gov. Sam Brownback's administration to close the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

The meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt. We'll be providing live updates right here, if you can't make the meeting.

Earlier today during a meeting with Lawrence Journal-World reporters and editors, SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. said he would not be attending tonight's meeting nor would anyone from his office. In the same meeting, Siedlecki said he wanted to be as transparent as possible.

We're following all the tweets from tonight's meeting using the hashtag, #LKSRS.

6:54 p.m. — More than 500 people have gathered in the church. All of the local legislators are here as well community leaders. The bottom area of the church is full and the top is filling up.

7 p.m. — The Rev. Peter Luckey is welcoming everyone, and praised the local legislators for organizing the event. Luckey said we are "united" and "care" about the community. A huge round of applause followed.

7:05 p.m. — Luckey said "we can not turn our back on this." It will be another roadblock between our families and the help they need to get medical care and food on the table. "We are here to help."

He has received a huge round of applause and a standing ovation by many in the crowd.

7:10 p.m. — Tom Holland said he and other legislators will take the comments and concerns of this community back to the SRS. Now, they are going to take comments and questions from the community. These must only pertain to the closure of the Lawrence office. There are two microphones in place. They are giving each person approximately 2 minutes to speak.

Among those in attendance and taking notes are: city and county commissioners, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson, the police chief, the sheriff, and local legislators.

7:29 p.m. — Residents are questioning how they are supposed to find transportation to other towns. Bert Nash COO expects case workers will spend at least 30 percent more time dealing with cases because of the closure.

7:35 p.m. — A resident said there may not be legal action, but there can be political action. He encouraged people to voice their opinions by showing up on the steps of the Capitol in Topeka. He is proud of the turnout here, but thinks this community needs to take its voice to Topeka.

Almost everyone's comments are receiving applause. There's a real sense of this community coming together to make a difference.

Also, there will another community forum from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 23, at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

People are questioning why SRS officials are not here to explain the closure and address this community's questions.

7:40 p.m. — A resident questioned the recent hiring of out-of-state workers. She wonders how much they are making and could those salaries make up the closures. What are their jobs? Where's the transparency?

Another resident wanted to know why faith-based organizations haven't tried to appeal to the "Pope himself." The comment received laughter and applause.

7:45 p.m. — A Cottonwood employee who works with disabilities wants to know why there was no public input on the matter.

A school leader is concerned about students who may need the services. "It's a huge step backwards to close this office."

Another resident is very concerned about the technology that's going to be used. He is worried there will be just tables with pamphlets, and he knows how difficult it can be to navigate the Internet. He also believes the closure will cause more work for community agencies and churches.

7:50 p.m. — Residents are telling local representatives that they are having a hard time reaching Gov. Brownback and SRS officials.

A resident said we don't sacrifice our children — "We help them." Her comment received huge applause.

Loring Henderson, of The Lawrence Community Shelter, doesn't even know where to begin. It's going to be a huge loss. If this decision stands, he predicts the shelter's workers will spend more time to get its clients to the other SRS offices. He predicts he will spend more time fundraising.They currently have nine families with 17 children who are using SRS. The decision will affect them greatly.

8:05 p.m. — A woman said it's going to have a devastating effect on the mentally ill. She said it's going to be harder for them to get food and access to care. It is going to put more financial stress on agencies, like Bert Nash, whose funding is already being cut.

A woman who is an advocate for the mentally ill said it's just another message to those with disabilities that they are not worthy to be helped. These services continue to be cut.

8:10 p.m. — A KU student said that if the SRS office closures are being done to save the state money, then why is the state spending so much on transportation and building highways?

Former Judge Jean Shepherd said she is very concerned about the relationships that will be lost. She said the schools and the social workers know each other. She's concerned that children might unnecessarily go into foster care.

8:30 p.m. — The public forum has come to an end. Stay logged on to LJWorld.com for a summary of the meeting.

Comments

Peanutcat 2 years, 9 months ago

Many SRS employees were there last night. They requested that I forward a thankyou to everyone for the show of support. They have no voice in this process and have been told that there would be repucussions if they actively participate.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

This is the letter I sent to the governor this morning.. perhaps some of you that support this could read it with an open mind and reconsider as well!!! Governor: I am writing in opposition to the closing of the Lawrence SRS office. I feel strongly that this is absolutely NOT a solution to helping our great community or the state of Kansas, either financially or socially. Moving forward with this decision will not only hurt the entire Lawrence community, but many surrounding communities will also be effected quite adversely by the closing of the Lawrence SRS office when trying to absorb the many case loads as well. Those offices are already working beyond their own capacities. I know it is said that employees will be transferred to help with those, but we all know that is not going to be what will happen. Many employees will retire or quit, and their positions will be eliminated. There is a network of agencies in Lawrence that work together for the good of the entire community at large. SRS in Lawrence is at the center of a well functioning wheel. Spokes that go out to from the wheel are the many other social agencies, such as Bert Nash, DCCA, Cottenwood, The Community Shelter, CASA, law enforcement and the courts etc. etc., and the list goes on and on. This is the wheel that makes this wonderful community go round, and ultimately work together for the betterment of the whole.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 9 months ago

The local SRS office has many wasted hours of staff employees who continually see the same people each time they need the toilet flushed. And why doesn't the Journal World inquire as to how many clients come from Ottawa for example to seek assistance when they could get the same from the Ottawa office.

I sure wish that Alceste would pay rent in the basement. Kinda like the Phantom of the Opera living in the dungeons of the theatre.

How much of the work at SRS could be done with volunteer help? In fact, quite frankly, how much of the work at SRS is even needed? Brownback is not cutting any jobs, so what is the outcry about?

Was the owner of the buidling present to protest losing a tenant? Yes or No? As far as the city, county, state and USD 497 losing anything , they havn't as the owner will still pay property taxes.

So, where is the loss? SRS closing it's office is just the beginning of change for Lawrence.

There are more to come!

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grammaddy 2 years, 9 months ago

Tom Holland was there but Brownback wasn't?Hmmm.

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tange 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, we got yer faith based initiative, right here, Siedlecki.

/ photo above, suitable for framing

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2GenLtown 2 years, 9 months ago

Good job to all those who showed up to represent Lawrence and those in our community who are not able to speak for themselves. May God bless you.

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Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 9 months ago

The Journal-World has done a real service for publicizing and presenting this situation. Lawrence

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

why don't you people get the school district to donate one of their closed schools like they did east heights for the boys-girls club? problem solved. stop sitting on your rear ends and have our local legislators lobby the school district instead of massing a b*tch forum with no answers. geez people.....you are pathetic. srs is/was paying rent where they are at. i guarantee you they were paying more than $300K a year for their buildings.

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not_holroyd 2 years, 9 months ago

Isn't it amazing that Alceste, as a vested, landed Oread slumlord hates all Oread residentcial landowners and all government workers in general?

Oh god, he also hates the salaries of all people who work at market-rates in the area of public services. Heck, he complains about all these salaries of ceo's of companies who have accomplished the "privitization" that people like him have for years advocated for. "Where's the beef?"

Or does he just live in the basement of one-eyed-wilbur, our resident slum-lord expert.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

On a slight bright side, maybe they'll stop downsizing Bert Nash.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

Concerning WT, money is irrelevant. It comes in all classes, incomes, shapes and sizes. C'mon, this is Kansas. He's not being paid that much. It's pubic, yes pubic record. Look it up. I'm not gonna bother because that's not the point. Jeez, none2, thanks for ruining my zinger.

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justajoke 2 years, 9 months ago

The Lawrence office has the same number of intakes as the bigger offices in the region per worker. I think someone needs to ask for a break down of cases per division. These numbers aren't accurate. The cost savings isn't accurate either, now the state will be paying to relocate workers, mileage, cell phones, laptops and other items that are needed to do the job. Postage won't be a savings either because now intakes will increase and you will have to mail more documents. I am betting that the KC Metro Region has already save close to the amount needed by the firing or ( forced retiring) of the 8 people that have left in the last 3 weeks...

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cletus26 2 years, 9 months ago

i'm glad to see that there was a good turnout and that people were able to at least vent about their fustrations and concerns..

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

Now Merchill, if you're gonna get all cutty and pasty about it, you need to pastey up some other opinions. HollisBrown (anonymous) says… Oh, boy. The Quantril's Raid thing again. That never happened. I get your point, but please use another comparison. Alice Cooper played Homecoming at Allen Fieldhouse in the 70's. Now that really happened.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

"Rob Siedlecki is from Florida."

So....Is he a serial killer or just plain old WT?

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tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

Our SRS does not need to be run by a non-Kansan. Go back to Florida!

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tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

"I was simply relating that my stomach is about to cause me to throw up due to the "remarks" from our local politicians. "

Alceste I call you out as a liar. You were not there. The politicians weren't doing the talking, the public was talking. More lies from conservatives.

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jackbinkelman 2 years, 9 months ago

Seems to me in the long run, this isn't going to save Kansas any money. Disgusting display gop.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

So let's kill the biggest, strongest, most self-reliant baby!!! All he does is holler and upset the status quo! Right Seidlecki???? HOGWASH!

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vavavang 2 years, 9 months ago

http://www.benzlogo.com/

I tide fashion Good-looking, not expensive Free transport

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thiatt 2 years, 9 months ago

Disappointing meeting. 1.5 hours of compelling statements and stories about how this move will gravely impact the health and safety of our community and the panel, led by Tom Holland refused to take or answer any questions. Tom Sloan didn't show. The Floridian leadership of SRS was invited to attend but declined to face the concerns of our community. And in the end, the promise from the elected leadership of Douglas County was to pass comments along to the governor and explore every alternative. The only fight in that room came from the people, not the politicians. So far the only elected leader that has stood up on this issue has been Charles Branson.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

To the editor:

First it was William Quantrill. Now it’s Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach. These “Topeka Ruffians” have openly declared war on women, immigrants, the poor and needy, the arts and now Lawrence, itself. The lies and hoodwinking to achieve their Republican agenda are one thing.

The complete disregard for the quality of life here in Lawrence, especially for the neediest, is totally unacceptable. There is an expression “there is each of us and all of us.” Each of them wants to slash and burn the critical institutions that all of us pay for. Ain’t gonna fly. I promise to dedicate my time, energy and money to recall these (for want of a better word) “leaders.”

Who will join me?

Charles Gruber

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Rob Siedlecki is from Florida.

The new secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services will be Robert Siedlecki Jr., who is chief of staff with the Florida Department of Health. He is former legal counsel to the Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the U.S. Department of Justice under President George W. Bush.

The neoconservative fundamentalist christians are on a march to take over Kansas government no matter what.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

What those that oppose this latest move don't get is, that if you live in Lawrence, and even many in surrounding communities.. you WILL be effected quite adversely by the closing of the Lawrence SRS office. There is a network of agencies in Lawrence that work together, and SRS is at the center of the wheel, with the spokes that go out to form the wheel that makes this community go round and work for the better of the whole. I've lived in Lawrence all my life, and have had to access services in the past. I now speak as an advocate for those who's voices are weak now, while mine has been restored! I love this town, which is more like a city now. I hate to see it become just another adjoining arm of Kansas City. That's the direction this move is making.. to take away our community and make it part of the "greater" Johnson County. If you care at all about Lawrence, you would see that closing the SRS tears apart the very social infrastructure that makes our town so great!!

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 9 months ago

I had trouble getting Internet service at times, so I apologize for the gaps especially at the end of the forum. Rep. Paul Davis ended the forum by encouraging everyone to contact the governor's office. He said that Lawrence legislators and leaders will continue to fight to keep the SRS office open.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

More than 500 people. In one place? Tonight? In this weather? God, I bet it stunk in there!!

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

Christ, Cait! Now look what you've done. No threading! Not here, not anywhere.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

Master of Puppets was a good album but I liked Ride the Lightning better. Hey, what does Metallica have to do with SRS anyway? Lars sure wouldn't give a damn, as long as Napster isn't part of it. You know Lars, people had quit listening to your crappy music before Napster. Nothing lasts forever.

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HollisBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm glad this is happening but I don't think we need a live blog or a minute by minute update. Kind of hickish. Like when Helen Crump ran for town council of Mayberry.

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Nonsense 2 years, 9 months ago

PLEASE NOTE: TOM SLOAN WAS NOT THERE!

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BigDog 2 years, 9 months ago

I see a lot of whining and complaining on here. How about suggestions and solutions? What are your suggestions for budget reductions of the $42.5 million required of SRS by the legislature? The cuts are required to have $1 million of the cuts from SRS administration.

It is easy for legislators to put the blame on the Brownback adminstration, the adminstration is implementing the budget that the legislature passed. The Governor's budget proposal contained far smaller cuts. Not to excuse the Brownback adminstration but legislators shouldn't get off of the hook for their part in budget cuts to SRS.

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Sparko 2 years, 9 months ago

Mean-spirited, small minded and incompetent. Brownback. How he was ever elected to any office is a mystery solved only by looking at his puppet-masters. What next?

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kantubek 2 years, 9 months ago

"A KU student said that this is being done to save money, but she questions the decision to spend so money on transportation instead of caring for people."

LJW, please revise this.

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 9 months ago

As there were no public forums or public input into this decision and there was no input from legislators, is there any possibility that this could be a violation of Kansas "Sunshine" laws? Actually getting data from SRS took an FOIA request.

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northtowngrl 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the live blog! Couldn't make it off work in time to beat the crowd. So glad its a packed house!

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biggunz 2 years, 9 months ago

All u complainers better be there. Posting on this website does nothing!!

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macon47 2 years, 9 months ago

lawrence did not support brownback and inspite of the need for the folk that really could use the services, lawernce is pegged as a bunch of freeloaders , that expect the rest of the world to support them, because they are entiltled this town is pretty full of folks than think alot of themselves and support others providing their wants, rather thank their needs.

i have had a paid subscription to this paper for 20 yrs, and if you dont post this i will cancel my subscription. and let the freeloaders take over

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Eride 2 years, 9 months ago

Thankfully Siedlecki won't be attending. The last thing any of us wants is for him or anyone in the executive branch to be accountable for their actions.

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