Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mayor John "Mister Greenjeans" Hickenlooper and His Fantastic Tree Initiative AND the even MORE FANTASTIC Sales Tax Increase for Pre-Schoolers

I love trees and the shade they bring and the creatures who inhabit them or just land on them for a moment of look-see to determine where the worm or the seed or the field mouse might be. (Partial to field mice, too. But, it's a Darwinian thing that I can't do a whole lot about.) I love trees. I understand the worth of trees in cooling the planet and absorbing carbon dioxide. (Incidentally, I understand Mister Greenjeans took hold of this million tree thing after someone with the Denver Museum of Science and Technology happened to mention the worth of trees as a weapon against global warming. One wonders, then, where the hell Hick has been for, well, the last twenty, thirty years or more during which the worth of trees, as described, has been universally known even by old guys like myself.) I mourn the passing of so many giant and ancient trees that have been cut down (or fallen down in a high wind) due to old age and disease in our West Highlands neighborhood. (The old Silver Maple that fronts our 1893 Victorian was trimmed last year. The foreman of the crew told us that our tree probably has another four or five years left in it.)

A letter to the editor in yesterday's Rocky Mountain News caught my eye. It's from a fellow by the name of Isaac Smith out of Thornton. Mr. Smith has done the math on Mr. Greenjeans', excuse me, Mayor Hickenlooper's proposal to plant a million new trees in Denver over the next twenty years. Now, here's what Mr. Smith says: "1 million trees divided by 20 years equals 50,000 trees per year. So, the city of Denver plans to plant about 137 trees per day for the next 20 years? ...Maybe a brilliant reporter should ask Mayor John Hickenlooper where the water is going to come from for 50,000 new trees per year."

Let me take Isaac's math a step further.

If Denver is going to plant 137 trees per day for the next twenty years, then--after recently planting a red maple in my back yard--I figure it takes about an hour to dig the whole, prep the whole, prep the tree, set the tree, engorge the whole with enriched soil, cover the whole with dirt, water the tree, spread mulch in the depression around the trunk. So, we're talking about 137 hours per day, seven days a week. Given an eight hour day for city workers (with a half-hour lunch and two fifteen minute breaks, resulting actually in a seven hour day of productive work) then one person could probably plant seven trees per day. With me, here? Okay. 137 divided by 7 is, rounded off, about 20. So, twenty guys/gals a day, seven days a week will be needed to achieve Mister Greenjeans's dream.

Now, the mid-range pay for a Parks Seasonal Laborer is $10.76 per hour. Forgetting the 30+ percent required for FICA and other ancillary costs for these employees, and figuring that you can probably plant trees for about, oh, maybe six months per year, let's see what we come up with. Shall we?

Since Mister Greenjeans wants a million trees planted in twenty years, then we're going to have to double the number of employees for the planting because we've got only six months to do it. So, that's 40 people per day for six months. Given that (I think?) an FTE (Full Time Employee) works at least 2,080 hours per year, it is reasonable to expect the tree planters to work 1,040 hours during their six months of service. Still with me? So, let's see what the cost of these folks might be.

40 employees X 1,040 hours for six months of work at an average of $10.76 per hour= $447,616.08 X 20 years = $8,952,320.00. This, of course--as I said--doesn't account for FICA and workmans' comp costs and overtime for weekends, etc., etc., etc.

Now, we haven't considered the cost of trees. My new Red Maple cost about $90.00. You can do that math yourself.

Some of my prior posts have characterized Hizzonner, John Hickenlooper, Mister Greenjeans, the Hick, as a "snake oil" salesman. "Snake oil," is defined as poppycock, bunkum. So, the seller of snake oil is a purveyor of poppycock and/or bunkum. Agreed? Unfortunately and incredibly the Hick's popularity remains in the stratosphere. Left-leaning folks (majority of Denverites) buy the Hick's fantastical concoctions, hook, line and sinker, including, of course, the fantastic tree initiative.

Quite aside from Isaac's worry about where the water is going to come from to water all these wonderful trees, might I wonder where the hell the money is going to come from to remediate the disgustingly irresponsible deferment of park infrastructure repair/maintenance that has infested this city for so many years? While the Hick has discovered his Mister Greenjeans personae, can I suggest that part of that personae should be a concern about the disgraceful lack of interest in the rehabilitation of Denver's parks?

It's clear that Denver's parks are going to languish in disrepair unless the Mayor and the City Council place appropriate bond issues on the ballot. But, what have they chosen to place on the ballot this November! Nothing for parks. No, they've chosen to place on the ballot a proposal to raise Denver's sales tax by .0012 cents (1.2 cents for every ten dollars) to fund a pre-school program that would raise about $12Million to be exclusively devoted to a pre-school education program.

Not enough that Denver property owners are paying out the kazoo in property taxes for the Denver Public School system that keeps asking for more money and keeps failing at educating Denver's kids...in spite of all that money. No, now Hick is--in my humble opinion--severely overstepping/shirking his responsibilities to the citizens of Denver in suggesting that sales tax monies (the main source of Denver's operational revenue) be utilized to fund schooling programs. Now, if you can show me where in Denver's Charter or its Revised Municipal Code the Mayor has the responsibility for the education of Denver's children I'd be real interested to see it.

I'm thinkin' that $12Million Hick wants to spend on schooling programs would be a Godsend for Denver's parks. Indeed, most of the parks on my side of town have irrigation systems that are so compromised they either don't work at all or are so inefficient and damaged that they waste hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.

Consider this: Part of that $12Million could go to before and after school and summertime recreation programs for Denver's kids IN THE PARKS. You want to give Denver's kids a meaningful, life-nurturing experience? Get them outside. Get them in the swimming pool or the basketball court. Get them in the weight room. Get them into pottery and painting and sculpting and tennis and baseball and softball and golf. Get them into music programs and boating programs and, hell, get them into cleaning up the parks. Let those kids help plant those trees!

Just a last thought here. David and I don't have children of the two-legged variety. Our children have been exclusively of the four-legged variety and they have been as precious to us as I'm sure the two-legged variety are to our neighbors who have them. David and I understand the worth of educating the young in Denver. That's the responsibility of the Denver School Board and Hick's ol' buddy Michael Bennett, the superintendent of Schools. It's not the responsibility of the Mayor of Denver or the Denver City Council.

Let me suggest that this pre-school program has been in the works for quite a number of years and has been/is being pushed by Carol Boigon (God bless her good intentions) who has worked for a couple Denver mayors and is now on the Denver City Council. Mayor Wellington Webb, the Hick's predecessor, put the damn thing on the ballot and it lost. Now, here we are again and folks are just giddy with the prospect of the Hick pushing the thing over the top, slick salesman of the oil of snakes that he is.

Tapping into the city's main source of operational revenue to fund a program that has nothing to do with the sworn responsibilities of either the mayor or the city council is just simply wrong. If the Denver School Board wants to go to the people once again and ask for more money to enhance pre-school programs, then let them do it.

Let's fix this city's crumbling infrastructure. It can't wait much longer.

Oh, and by the way, it was Mayor Robert W. Speer--first elected in 1904, reelected in 1908 and 1916--who initiated an annual spring "Tree Day," where up to 20,000 trees were given out to Denver's citizens free of charge. Given Denver's population now, those 20,000 trees would surely today equate to, oh, say 50,000 or more trees.

I've got it. Mister Greenjeans can, at the city's nurseries and at secure locations in the parks, begin a tree growing program--from little acorns, mightly oaks....--that in a few years would surely provide those 50,000 trees that Hizzonner could give away to citizens to plant all over the city. Let's start up some tree farms. Whadaya think?

Ah, a solution for Mister Greenjeans following Mayor Speer's example, who (Mayor Speer) said (again, by the way): "We have had too much tinkering, running after false gods, and not enough common sense in our city affairs..."


P.S. That's Mister Greenjeans at the upper right. Striking resemblance to... Nah. Never mind.

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