Green above green

Budget crisis is no excuse to forget the environment

In this, our annual Green Issue, we set out to look at things through an environmentally filtered lens, focusing on the city’s green efforts.

What we discovered in researching and writing about the subjects in our cover package—the Climate Action Plan, the city’s urban forest, the plastic-bag ban, and the city’s response to creekside pollution—was that budgetary issues have taken priority over efforts to be kinder to our environment. We were heartened to see the City Council make the right call on plastic bags, but are hoping that’s not a one-off decision.

The city needs to find a way to maintain its focus on sustainability because, let’s face it, what we do today will affect how we’re able to live tomorrow.

One thing that stood out to us was the proposal to eliminate the urban forest manager position, which previously oversaw the care and maintenance of the city’s 28,000 trees. At the March 25 City Council meeting, Public Works Director Ruben Martinez recommended also cutting the job of facilities manager, which oversees traffic signals, street lights and parking.

His solution? To divvy up the duties of those two positions—whose salaries equal $233,771—among other staff and possibly hire outside consultants. Unfortunately, this solution saves the city only $43,009, padding the salaries of current staffers who are already overworked and likely won’t have time to devote to carrying out additional duties well. Our recommendation to the council is to hire one person to do both jobs at a salary equal to the higher of the two (around $117,000), ensuring more time is spent on the important tasks and decisions, such as caring for the trees, and more savings for the city. It’s a no-brainer.