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Fwd: Fw: Arborist budget cuts

      i got this today, pleaceread this
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Hi Tree lovers,

Here's more fuel for the tree fire, this time from Councilman McIver. In
preparation for the protest at the Mayor's office at high noon on Nov. 17,
it is interesting how my message to 8 decision-makers in city government
only generated one response. As a private arborist, I'd be interested in
hearing from those of you who may have had this spam reach your emailbox.

Please feel free to forward this to other interested parties. If it has
reached you in error, I apologise, and am perfectly willing to ensure that
you are not inconvenienced further. Just reply with "Delete Spam" in the
subject line.

Arboreally yours,

----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard McIver" <Richard.McIver@Seattle.Gov>
To: <michaeloxman@comcast.net>
Sent: Monday, November 01, 2004 3:49 PM
Subject: Re: Arborist budget cuts

Mr. Oxman,

I appreciate your taking the time to let me know of your opposition to
the proposal of Mayor Greg Nickels to eliminate two positions within the
City Arborist's Office and for your suggestions as to how the work
should be handled.  You may wish to share some of your ideas about the
tree inventory and staffing with the Mayor's Office or with Grace
Crunican, the Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The Mayor and City Council have made cuts in excess of $100 million in
recent years in response to the economic downturn and due to the impact
of the Eyman anti-tax initiatives.  For 2005, the Mayor's proposed
budget closes an additional budget shortfall in the neighborhood of
approximately $20 million.  The proposals to eliminate the Library
Bookmobile and to impose parking fees in city parks have been the most
unpopular elements of his budget proposal, but as demonstrated by your
email, there are a number of other unpopular and difficult budget cut

As you probably know better than I, the Mayor would eliminate two of
five positions in the Arborist's Office.  It currently has a part-time
receptionist, two arboriculturists, a tree crew supervisor, and the City
Arborist who manages the unit.  The supervisor position and one of the
arboriculturists are proposed to be cut.  The unit responds to
approximately 6,000-7,000 telephone calls a year, as well as written
correspondence.  While many of these calls can be answered by phone,
others require field visits to evaluate site conditions, particularly if
a call concerns a potentially hazardous tree or a tree root breaking up
a sidewalk.

The Mayor's Office says that the primary impact of their proposed cut
would be to substantially increase the time to respond to citizen
complaints and requests.  The Seattle Department of Transportation
(SDOT), which houses this unit, estimates that response times would
increase from the current 3-4 days to 3-4 weeks during peak periods,
except in high priority cases where a hazard to people or property may
exist, or where a tree or branch may impede traffic.  According to SDOT,
three would be no changes in the number of trees pruned as a result of
the proposed cuts.

The Council is currently analyzing the Mayor's budget proposal,
receiving input from citizens, and exploring alternatives, all with the
expectation of adopting a balanced budget by Thanksgiving.  Of course,
for every dollar the Mayor would cut that we choose to restore, we must
find a corresponding dollar in savings or increased fees.  Needless to
say, this isn't easy, particularly when we've already taken the easy
cuts in previous budget cutting rounds.

Again, I do appreciate knowing how you think these cuts would adversely
hurt the citizens of Seattle.  I don't feel that I am ready to take a
position on this particular proposed cut, but I will certainly keep your
comments in mind as the debate progresses.

Richard J. McIver
Seattle City Council

>>>Original message from:<michaeloxman@comcast.net> 10/31/2004 11:03:13 AM

Dear Council Member,                                      10-31-04

Please do not eliminate any city arborist positions to 'save'
money. Seattle has a wonderful tree resource, a luxury unmatched by
other cities. Governmental tree programs in right-of-ways, parks, and
other public spaces set the lead for citizens to follow by caring for
trees on their own private property. The city may be land-rich, but we
are maintenance-dollars poor.

SDOT's ratio of 5 chiefs and 2 tree worker indians may seem
disproportionate, but only because of city policy of ignoring of
thousands of trees needing attention that line hundreds of miles of
Seattle streets. Any cost savings by cutting staff will result in
increased tree hazards. The increasing liability posed by a maturing
tree population that is growing in size can only be controlled by
increased staff, or at least maintained at current levels.
Either get more people, or get the ones you have to work more
efficiently. This includes allowing all our trained staff to do work on
trees at the time it is noticed. Our tree inspectors are merely
reporting hazards, due to union rules that confine them to a supervisory

The Urban Forestry program web page at the City of Seattle states the
need for 'fresh ideas and innovative partnerships'. For true compliance
with the TREE CITY USA program we take credit for, Seattle should open
up a channel by appointing citizens to our tree advisory board. For the
Office of Sustainability and Environment to proceed with creating an
Urban Forestry Strategic Plan without such involvement seems to be
putting the cart before the horse.

Please use our tree inventory. City employees doing tree maintenance
should be executing a programmed plan, as laid out in the analysis of
our tree inventory. The expensive tree survey sits in a box without
being continually updated or queried as a source of work orders for our
staff. The current disorganized method of relying on work orders
generated by a constant deluge of unsubstantiated incoming phone
complaints is very inefficient.

Please place one person in charge of all public-owned trees. The
separate SDOT City Arborist staff and the Parks Department Urban
Forestry staff share many of the responsibilities for trees, causing
duplication, wasted city money, and inadequate authority to address
issues concerning trees. One result of this 'divide & conquer' strategy
is a weakening and dilution of our tree policy direction. Another result
is that a cohesive arguement for an integrated funding strategy cannot
present a persuasive budget request that addresses the need for proper
tree care.

The diffusion of high priority tree maintenance needs throughout a
large geographic area can be addressed by contract crews, yet agreements
with employee unions prevent such a work arrangement. The most urgent
needs for addressing tree problems that may be hazardous can be
contracted out in an expeditious manner. The fact is that contract crews
work harder than union crews, and are a better value for citizen tax
dollars, regardless of the source of that revenue.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.

Michael Oxman
13721 Greenwood AV N Seattle WA 98133
(206) 949-8733

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