Reformers walk a fine line between saint and insane, because at some point you start wondering why anyone would want to subject themselves to a situation that is so fouled up that there is no way their good deeds will go unpunished.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is in that role. So, too, is East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.
Jackson-Hicks walked into office facing a $5.7 million deficit for 2016. There are plenty of reasons for the deficit, including a roughly $4.7 million drop in casino revenue since 2007, $1.9 million in workers comp claims, $2.8 million in pension costs, a $2.5 million loan that was spent but never received and 12.5 percent payroll growth in the past two years.
Jackson-Hicks said layoffs are inevitable, but she wants to put public safety first.
Out of 187 employees, first responders are a little more than half of the employees but receive two-thirds of the payroll. By our calculation using city salary data, Jackson-Hicks would need to lay off every employee that was not in the public safety department, then cut 12 first responders to balance that $5.7 million deficit.
She’s also started uncovering some of the inept and criminal activity in City Hall. Tonight she will be fending off a palace insurrection as city councilmen supposedly will try to boot the new city manager, Traycee Chapman, that Jackson-Hicks brought in to help straighten out the city. Chapman must be doing a good job of finding the waste and fraud if they want her out so fast.
Maybe there’s some magic Jackson-Hicks can pull out of her sleeve, but even if we’re half right about the cuts needed then the city is facing an ugly future. The job will take not only a saint, but a superhero — and the mayor might just face the fight without her faithful sidekick.