Wednesday, July 28, 2010
TOO MANY CHIEFS, NOT ENOUGH INDIANS, CLEANING UP HARTFORD'S PARKS
Pulaski Circle planter, it has since been weeded
Helen Ubinas posted on her blog this evening about Hartford's efforts to clean up our parks. To read her posting click here
It reminded me of the first time Helen and I met. It was several years ago and it was in regards to a court case regarding illegal dumping by a West Hartford repair shop owner who chose Wellington Street to dump his junk parts. Long story short, the HPD Officer who investigated the complaint, Officer Allen, now Lieutenant Allen, did a great job, followed through and the owner was arrested and the tow-truck he used to dump his junk was seized as part of the crime.
Helen and I took a tour of Hartford and I showed her some of the notorious dumping areas across the city. Wellington Street, Keney Park many side streets with stripped cars sitting on blocks or resting on the ground. It was a problem, litter and garbage on many streets.
The problem was compounded by a Prosecutor in the Hartford Court who was upset that "his" courtroom was being used on a Friday afternoon for such nonsense as illegal dumping in Hartford. His comment that he made sure we heard was "who cares about dumping in Hartford, Hartford is a dump".
Unfortunately I think that this is the mindset of many people, living in Hartford who see Hartford's parks and streets as one big trashcan. I think that is a society thing that needs to be changed, but the condition of Hartford's parks is a shared embarrassment between those who trash them and those who are entrusted to maintain them.
I think two major problems exist. Over the years, Public Works has been the first place to look for budget cuts and has been decimated from the bottom up, while it seems to continue to grow at the top. Simply put, too many Chief's and not enough Indians.
It might help if some of the "chief's" or Director's and Deputy Directors as we prefer to call them, actually lived in Hartford. Maybe if they had to worry about their family having a picnic under the dead oak tree in Colt's Park with branches falling off, or sitting by the overflowing trash containers in Sigourney Park or stepping over the used syringes and broken bottles in South Green Park, maybe things would change.
The problem is the laborers that actually do the work are gone. But I was amazed by the "punch list" of items in Helen's column to be completed during "Parks Week".
Monday, August 23rd: Keney Park (Woodland Street entrance):
• Cut and remove fallen trees
• Clean and remove leaves along hiking roads and trails
• Remove old fence at tennis courts, clean area
• Repair broken benches
• Repair broken basketball rims
• Clean, patch and paint handball courts
• Remove old baseball backstop
Tuesday, August 24th: Colt Park
• Cut, remove and prune trees
• Repair park benches
• clean area under old stage/pavilion
• Clean and remove boards at old ice rink
• Repair Massek parking lot
• Repair basketball courts
Wednesday, August 25th: Goodwin Park
• Remove branches and wood along Maple Avenue
• Repair fit trail and equipment
• Repair basketball courts
• Trim and cut trees on Maple Avenue
Thursday, August 26th: Bushnell Park
• Remove perimeter shrubs near Pump House
• Repair park benches
• Prune Pump House shrubs
• Refurbish mulch beds where needed
• Trim and prune trees
• Remove old fencing around playground area
Friday, August 27th: Keney Park (Barbour Street entrance)
• Cut up and remove fallen trees
• Remove old fence and nets at northern tennis courts
• Replace or repair rims and nets at basketball courts
• Paint basketball courts
Is this what we are paying supervisors in DPW for. I would hope for someone making over a hundred grand a year in salary, these would be things that would be targeted everyday. Do we really need a special week to "remove branches and wood along Maple Avenue"? Or "repair park benches" in Colt's Park. Wouldn't that be a perfect project for the winter when there is no snow to be plowed? We know they aren't all tied up repairing potholes, that's for sure.
It seems we could do with a few less "Deputy Directors" and maybe a few more laborers to actually get the work done. It almost seems like the higher ups at DPW drive around Hartford all agreeing "yup, that looks bad, yup, that tree is definitely dead, yup, that trash is overflowing, but come on, lets go, I need to get to the bank and cash my paycheck".
Don't get me wrong, it's good to see the list and know that some of the eyesores are being addressed, but shouldn't it be an everyday routine, not just a week long media event?
Ok, and now the lightning rod. I said there were two major problems, first being a top heavy, bloated salary DPW management team. The second is the DPW unions. Yes, I said that.
I recently asked someone at the Community Court why they weren't doing community service work in Hartford's parks? I figured picking up trash, maybe pulling weeds, the typical type of work the Community Court does. The answer was short and sweet...Unions. They explained that they had tried and that the DPW laborers union had complained.
I fully understand the union position if the City was eliminating jobs figuring they could get volunteers to replace the employees. The fact of the matter is that the DPW doesn't even come close to meeting the needs it has with the current number of workers and no one would be laid off by people doing Community service in the parks. It would only enhance the need for improving the image of Hartford which most likely would in turn potentially increase revenue to the City and eventually lead to re-hiring laid off DPW employees. I know, in a perfect world, but we need to start somewhere.
The sad part though is that many of the laid off DPW workers and the current DPW laborers are actually the same people using Hartford's parks. It's not the Director and Deputy Directors who leave Hartford and its horrendous, yet potentially beautiful parks, to head to their homes in East Haddam, Wethersfield or New Britain or wherever people making six figure salaries head to at night.
I commend the effort and making it an issue for one week, but it should be an every day effort.