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Laid-Off Employee Speaks Out PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 04:53

Community Rallies Around Recreation Coordinator

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

In a city council chamber filled with young athletes, the name of the game was disappointment for parents and teenagers over the City of San Fernando's decision to lay off the recreation coordinator.

"We need a coordinator, we need Danny [Cortez]. If it's going to start with Danny, then the program will be next.

Please reinstate him because we need him," said Tony Lopez, a volunteer coach and parent of a child who participates in the city's sports programs.

"Danny has helped me a lot since I was nine-years-old," said Miguel Flores, who added he looked up to Cortez whenever he needed help.

Cortez, who was in charge of overseeing the city's youth and adult sports program at all its parks, received a layoff notice on Monday, Sept. 17. He was one of five city employees who city council members decided to cut last week.

The layoffs came as the city faces an increasingly dire budget situation.

San Fernando is currently facing a nearly $2 million budget shortfall and the council has been discussing for weeks different ways to close that gap, including layoffs and furloughs.

City officials said the staff reduction would result in General Fund savings of approximately $241,000 for the remaining fiscal year (10 months), ending June 30, 2013; and the savings would be $323,000 to the General Fund for fiscal year 2013-14. Cortez, a 13 year city employee, said the council does not realize the impact of the decision to cut him.

"I've been coming to the council meetings for the past couple of weeks to tell them the importance of our programs, but it's fallen into deaf ears," he lamented.

Cortez oversaw youth basketball, t-ball and day camp programs. He also ran adult softball and volleyball leagues. In all, more than 600 youth and adults take part in those programs.

People who know Cortez describe him as a kind and compassionate person whose work transcends the basketball court and baseball field, who helps in all of the city's events and who makes an impact on everyone who comes in contact with him.

"I'm just hoping that this doesn't impact the community," Cortez said. "These programs are necessary. They teach good sportsmanship to the kids, we have good coaches they look up to, and keep kids off the streets.

"We try to keep these programs affordable and provide a safe, positive environment," he added.

Dozens of program participants and parents showed up at the Monday meeting worried that Cortez' dismissal might mean the demise of the city's sports programs as well.

"We're nervous. The director has been laid off. We don't know what's next," said Tom Hernandez, a volunteer coach at the city's parks for six years.

"One position might be an impact in the cultural makeup of the city. You guys are affecting these kids directly and the adults as well," said Ruben Quintana, president of the San Fernando Public Employees Association.

Long-time council critic Patty Lopez also asked the council to think things through before cutting any more employees.

"You're rushing," Lopez told them. "You're cutting people that are really important for the youth."

City authorities were adamant Cortez' dismissal does not mean cuts to the municipalities' sports programs and tried to reassure worried parents throughout the meeting.

"There is no discussion of any cuts to the program," said San Fernando Recreation and Community Services Operation Manager Ismael Aguila.

Mayor Brenda Esqueda also tried to calm residents' concerns. "The decisions we have to make are not easy decisions," she said during the council comments period of the meeting.

"These are decisions that are not going to be popular, but we have to look at what's best for the community. Please understand that when we make these decisions, they're not easy."

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Last Updated on Monday, 24 September 2012 17:21