By Seth Richardson
Gazette reporter Daniel Chacon wrote in his article “Brown fields, no busses: Effects of city budget cuts sinking in” on Friday, “Hermine Wise got a lesson in trickle-down economics last week. Walking around Prospect Lake at Memorial Park last week, she noticed a sign on one of the restroom doors. The bathrooms were locked, and the sign was there to let the public know why: that the city couldn’t afford to maintain the toilets because it didn’t have enough money. “What are people supposed to do?” asked Wise, 78. “Go behind a tree or pee in their pants?””
Yup. Hermine should petition the Council to repeal the “urinating in public” ordinance, or she should tell the Parks Department to unlock the doors and put up a sign asking users to maintain the facilities themselves. If you use public restrooms, bring your own toilet paper with you and either bring a spray bottle of disinfectant or be prepared to be grossed out. Your choice.
Government shouldn’t be allowed to shut us out of our public facilities and property merely because it cannot maintain or police it to its satisfaction. This “lock ‘em out” response is typical passive-aggressive retribution on the part of bureaucrats when they don’t get all the money they ask for, despite their insistence it’s not. The U.S. Forest Service is notorious for closing entire National Forests because they are denied money for administration or patrol. Cities are no less immune from such petty displays of power.
“I think it’s time to go back and ask for more resources,” Mayor Lionel Rivera said. “It’s self-evident that we can’t provide the level of service that the community desires with what we have.”
Well, Mr. Mayor, I’d say you’re wrong about the “community desires,” given how often the community rejects tax increases. You’re free to ask for more tax money, but you haven’t had much success with that, so how about focusing on efficiently using what you have and allowing citizens to learn to lower their expectations and do some of the work themselves?
Chacon wrote, “Some residents, however, suspect the city is cutting back on things like watering parks and bus service to punish voters for not approving tax increases. Such suspicions are unfounded, said Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, a city spokeswoman. “We will gladly show any citizen how their money is spent in detail,” she said in an e-mail.” “Lane miles have expanded, population has grown, costs for basic operational materials like asphalt, gasoline and cement has gone up substantially over the past few years, but our sales tax, which is over 50 percent of the general fund revenue, has shrunk,” she said. “People are feeling the impact,” Mayor Lionel Rivera said. “But the bottom line is we have limited resources.””
Good. That’s how we like it. Keeping bureaucrats and their budgets lean and mean enhances individual liberty, and we’ll learn to adapt to the changing conditions just fine, thank you very much. Times are tough all over, and what we expect you to do is to cut ALL discretionary, “entitlement” and luxury spending and focus on priorities, and here’s how you do it: Start by writing down every category of budget request you have and then prioritize them top to bottom. Then, start fully funding at the top of the list, and work your way down, and when you run out of money, stop.
Start with the essentials:
That’s the first five in order of priority. See how easy it is?
Now, on to parks.
“Candidly, if we have a summer this year like we had last year, I am very, very concerned about the condition of the parks,” Paul Butcher, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, said Friday. “We are taking every measure possible to keep them at least alive,” he said. Butcher said his office is fielding about one or two complaints a day, from all the dandelions in the medians and parks to the grass turning brown. He said the blue grass in the parks needs about 24 inches of water over a season,” writes Chacon.
Every possible measure? Well, how stupid was it to plant a water-hogging wet-climate, delicate turf grass like Kentucky Bluegrass in the first place, instead of a tough, hardy native grass like Fescue or better yet, Buffalo Grass? D’oh! Let the bluegrass die and replace it with something that uses much less water.
Here’s an idea: Everybody who uses one of those neighborhood parks should go and buy two pounds of Buffalo Grass seed and scatter it in their favorite park. It’ll cost you about $35 and will cover about 1000 square feet. Expensive? Only at first. Once established, it’s hardy and drought-resistant, and it’s native. Eventually, it will overtake the bluegrass and over a few years of natural expansion and volunteer seeding by citizens, the water bill for parks will be cut considerably.
Dandelion greens make great eating, if they haven’t been soaked in poison, and the flowers are pretty, so just ignore them. They make adequate ground cover to help prevent erosion and you don’t need to water them at all. As for the “one or two complaints a day,” give me a break! Ignore those whiners, don’t try to use it as an excuse to extract money from the rest of us. If the whiners don’t like dandelions, then let them get out in the medians and root them out themselves.
Does your park’s grass need mowing? Then hop on your lawnmower and go mow it. Does the public toilet need cleaning? Then clean it if you want to use it. Do the park benches need painting? Then go paint them. These parks belong to you, so either take care of them or quit carping to the City Council.
Or, vote them more tax money next time they ask, but make sure when they ask, they tell you exactly what they are going to use it for, and hold them to it. Force them to line-item all expenditures and make them pass an ordinance requiring them to abide by the budget once established. But whatever you do, learn to get by with what you have, and take care of it yourself if you care about it, because nobody else ought to be burdened with doing it for you if you don’t care enough to put forth some individual effort. Stop sucking at the public teat and expecting government to provide for you. Such attitudes are destroying our nation.
Update: Having been schooled in the finer points of growing grass, I am informed that Buffalo Grass doesn’t grow well at this altitude, and is not hardy under use, and that according to the experts, Bluegrass, as thirsty as it is, is the best alternative they have found. I must therefore concur with Wayne Laugesen’s editorial on the subject and advocate the installation of artificial grass on playing fields. What to do about other parks is still in question, but hopefully a less water-hungry grass can be found.
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