Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The State of CITY

The Alabama Board of Education has not yet pulled the plug on the CITY program, but it has drastically cut funding to the beleaguered entity, the most recent cut lopping 75% of the organization's workforce. In Lauderdale County, the state's most recently opened CITY site, only director Rhonda Bogus (pictured at left) and one instructor will remain.

Franklin County has been hit equally hard. Both State Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville and Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Sandlin have vowed to save the program. This may not be easy.

From what has been reported, the Florence CITY program, begun in 2007, has a budget of $500,000.00 and is already $1,000,000.00 in debt. In other words, the Florence based program would not hit the green until October 2011, even if they spend zero dollars until then. Where has their money gone? Did I say their money; excuse me, where has our money gone?

The program is worthwhile, but does consist of duplications of services offered elsewhere. It's certainly admirable to give youths a second chance, or a third, or...whatever it takes, but unfortunately most of us do not receive that second chance without paying for it. My friends who have changed careers in midstream have worked odd jobs or slung hash in order to obtain the second chance they so wanted. I believe they appreciate it more.

Local personnel with the program have gone on record that it now may become nothing but a babysitting service when the reduction in personnel is implemented. Do we the taxpayers wish to pay $500,000.00 a year for a babysitting service for wayward youth? I think not.

What about the money already spent on this endeavor? A local pundit in the legal field has stated that Rhonda Bogus' salary is "off the charts." I have no idea the actual amount of her salary, but I intend to find out. Is it off the charts? Well, I have a friend with a master's degree in social work who by day is the assistant director of a facility for the handicapped in Franklin County, yet by night she toils as a Wal-Mart door greeter in order to make ends meet. This is Alabama, and this is a public job, not a position in the private sector where most of us work.

As for Ms. Bogus' qualifications, looking at her Plaxo resume' online, she lists only the CITY job; nothing about Ms. Bogus is made public before 2007. What are her qualifications? How did she learn of the position? Who hired Ms. Bogus?

If you value your tax dollars, these are all questions the citizens of Lauderdale and Franklin Counties should be asking.

Tomorrow: An open letter to a judge