CLEVELAND (AP) - With the recent discovery of her pregnancy and
her two young children eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa, this
should be a joyous time for Tami Woytek.
But when her husband, Cleveland police officer Mark Woytek, was
told this month that he would by laid off, Tami felt her hopes for
a happy holiday crumble.
"I'm trying to focus more on the spirit of Christmas this
year," said Tami Woytek, 33, who is five weeks pregnant. "We've
had to cut down on the extras, and that's going to be the hard
thing. I don't know if they'll understand."
The Woytek's misery is not unique among the hundreds of police
and firefighters facing a similar fate because of city budget
shortfalls. Earlier this month, Mayor Jane Campbell gave notice to
700 city workers that they were being laid off. But the layoffs of
more than 260 police officers and 150 firefighters were put on hold
as the unions and city negotiate.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle scheduled a
hearing for Thursday to hear the police and firefighters unions'
request to block the city from going ahead with the job cuts
scheduled to take effect Monday.
Campbell on Wednesday accused both the police and firefighters'
union presidents of lying to the public and refusing her latest
proposal that she says would save some of those jobs.
"They rejected the best that we could do, and they gave
nothing," Campbell said. "They wouldn't even take our best offer
to their membership for a vote."
Firefighters' union president Bob Fisher called Campbell's
comments "completely untrue."
"We haven't rejected her proposal," Fisher said. "We have
asked for items within the proposals made by city to be clarified
... and without them being complete proposals, we can't bring them
to our members."
Cleveland is not the only city facing layoffs. A recent survey
taken by the National League of Cities showed that 30 percent of
the nation's cities have cut staff because of fiscal problems,
league spokesman Michael Reinemer said.
The Cleveland layoffs are part of Campbell's plan to offset a
$61 million budget deficit next year.
Tami Woytek said she has been trying to squeeze in doctor
appointments for her two sick children in case the layoffs take
place and they lose their health insurance.
Woytek's 4-year-old daughter, Makaela, has been announcing that
Santa will bring her and her 2-year-old brother Cody a bunk bed.
"I had to tell her, 'I think it's too heavy for his sleigh,"'
Police and firefighters who live in the tight-knit West Park
area have helped provide neighborhood stability, said the Rev.
Thomas J. Hagedorn, pastor of St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church.
The neighborhood is popular with officers and firefighters, who are
required to live in the city.
Hagedorn said the layoffs just before Christmas has created a
mood of sadness and uncertainty.
"Most people understand something has to be done. But they are
upset this is what's being done and don't know what else can be
done," he said.
Both Cleveland police officer Maggie Massa and her firefighter
husband, Victor, stand to lose their jobs on Monday.
"It's going to be a rough Christmas," said Maggie Massa, 33.
"It's like an emotional roller coaster. One day you have hope and
then the next day the talks are off. It's a hard blow."
The Massa's 7- and 9-year-old daughters understand they won't
get everything on their Christmas lists this year, their mother
said. The family has been cutting back on expenses like cable TV
and cell phones.
Firefighters are worried about the layoffs harming the public's
safety, Fisher said.
"This time of the year, there's going to be potential for a lot
more fires and they're not going to have the ability to impact
those people's live and reduce the fire damage and possibly save
lives. It's very emotional for them," Fisher said.
A fund has been established for the laid-off workers at both the
firefighter and police credit unions, Fisher said.
The owner of a popular Cleveland pizza shop has promised to
donate 50 cents from every pizza sold through Dec. 31 to laid-off
police officers and firefighters.
"The reality is if you can do something good, why not?" said
Mike Frangos, owner of Rascal House Pizza.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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