Hickenlooper Fiddles the Feel-Good Ditty (While the infrastructure crumbles!)

berkeley-052007015.jpgberkeley-052007003.jpgberkeley-052007017.jpgThe mama Wood Duck‘s brood, above, (Proud papa, the thumbnail) began as a single chick (thumbnail), little more than a week ago. Then, this weekend, one chick had become six…following mama to food or, simply, a lesson in life; a familiarity with the bank-side delights of Berkeley Park Lake in Northwest Denver.

Spring at Berkeley Lake provides witness to the enduring effusion of precious life found, perhaps curiously, within and adjacent to the most egregious of man’s fouling of what was once exclusively the pristine haunt of those creatures vitally connected to the fragile essence of the earth. Indeed, I70 borders–at places, no more than ten, twenty yards from the parks’ northern perimeters–at both Berkeley and Rocky Mountain Parks.

The lakes at both Berkeley and Rocky Mountain, are dotted with signage warning anglers of the dangers of Mercury contamination infesting fish in the lakes.

One cannot help but wonder how the mercury contamination is affecting or will affect the menagerie of God’s gifts extant in the park: Great Blue Herons, American White Pelicans, Night Herons, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Double Crested Cormorants, Coots and on and on.

And, should one wonder why mercury contamination is seen, according to the City’s information, only in these two Northwest Denver parks, Berkeley and Rocky Mountain? Not Wash Park. Not Sloan’s Lake. Not City Park. No, only Berkeley and Rocky Mountain. May I also wonder if the malaise of the city’s infrastructure is partly to blame? And, may I wonder if District 1 (Northwest Denver) Councilman, Rick Garcia, is, at least, curious about why only these two lakes, in his district, are contaminated with industrial pollutants. Is there, perhaps, a wee issue of a breakdown in the infrastructure–the pipes, the culverts–that feed these two lakes?

Susan Barnes-Gelt, writing in this Sunday’s Denver Post, notes:

The violent spring storms last week brought harsh, deadly reminders of the real cost of againg infrastructure.

Deadly waters coursing through west Denver’s Lakewood Gulch trail took the life of 2-year-old Jose Matthew Jauregui Jr. The violent weather nearly cost Denver Recue’s Chad Cramner his life as he saved the distraught mother.

The same ’50-year storm event’ flooded Goldsmith Gulch in southeast Denver, where Denver Police Officer Jairon Katz jumped in the water to save a young man who was swept downstream…

The city had failed to repair the aging culvert despite the repeated warnings of adjacent property and business owners. ..

These tragedies are extreme examples of what happens when regular maintenance is underfunded and when a region’s population growth exceeds the capacity of important, albeit usually invisible, safety infrastructure.

A story from the Rocky Mountain News, (Daniel Chacon) tells us:

You may think twice the next time you drink tap water in Denver.

For several years, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has failed to test hundreds of devices that prevent pesticides and other dangerous substances from slipping into the treated water system and into residents’ pipes…

If the backflow devises fail, Stevens [Denver Water Supervisor] warned, drinking water can be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, E. coli and other potential hazards… Stevens said the parks department’s backflow devices pose a high potential for contamination. He said 85 percent are out of compliance.

Barnes-Gelt notes that, Hickenlooper’s Infrastructure Task Force concluded that Denver’s existing assets and facilities that support basic services have been neglected. “…it will take approximately $400 million to address deferred maintenance of Denver’s street, parks, public buildings and other assets. After that, it will cost about $25 million per year to maintain these assets at an acceptable level.”

The Infrastructure Task Force, as well as Ms. Barnes-Gelt, advocates for a raise in the city’s mill levy to fund remediation efforts for Denver’s neglected, crumbling infrastructure.

Hickenlooper’s response? Well, shall we pull out that fiddle and play the feel-good ditty this “business mayor” never tires of churning out? Shall we note that the Hick’s response to looking into a tax increase–raising the mill levy will affect property taxes–is pretty much the same old song he began singing when he first ran for mayor? That song, of course, focuses on those damnable bureaucrats that feed at the public trough and, by golly, by gum, “…we won’t raise taxes until we demonstrate that we’ve found efficiencies by looking at every task a city worker is doing and see if we can do it cheaper.”

Nope, the feel-good ditty doesn’t address the issue at hand. The ditty continues to focus on “efficiencies” to be found by cutting staff, cutting resources, cutting inventories, cutting the stuff of essential city services so, yes, Hick’s constituency–big money, big developers, grand visionaries espousing grand new projects–can feel so damned good about themselves and their “business mayor.”

Methinks, if Hizzoner is serious about “…looking at every task a city worker is doing…,” a good place to start would be his stellar performer, Kim Bailey, Manager of Parks and Recreation, who thought enough of her city responsibilities to take 13.4 weeks off from those responsibilities to pursue her educational passion. But, then, the Hick just kinda let Ms. Bailey’s offensive neglect of her responsibilities slip-slide down that feel-good lane, with no disciplinary action, with no thought given to the inevitable question: Hey, if the young lady is able to take 13.4 weeks off, then maybe efficiencies could be realized by making that particular position part-time; cut her pay by half and she can go to school and the Department of Parks and Recreation can muddle through on their own without their absentee manager’s apparent disinterest in the minutia of actually taking care of the city’s business.

Then there’s the matter of backflow devices. Apparently, Ms. Bailey’s stellar performance at the Department of Parks and Recreation, has resulted in the elimination of positions (people), some of whom were responsible for checking on those troublesome backflow devices in the city’s park’s irrigation systems…what’s left of those system, that is. But, then, there’s that infrastructure neglect again; an issue that the Hick just doesn’t seem to be able to wrap his visionary mind around.

Infrastructure is, as Barnes-Gelt noted, “…usually invisible…” And, boy-howdy, if it ain’t visible, if it ain’t grand, if it ain’t designed to infuse more and more and more folks into new urbanist’s enclaves from one end of the city to the other, it just isn’t something the Hick’s mantra can accommodate.

By the way, more folks means more strain on infrastructure, and more strain means accelerated decomposition of that infrastructure, which means, yes, we may be pretty on the outside, but on the inside the metastasis spreads exponentially.

Ah, hell… Those of us who love, adore our parks and the critters who inhabit them, know how fragile those invaluable spaces are. And, most of us probably realize that a mayor’s responsibilities do not stop with grand edifices and mundane accouterments like skateboard slabs and play structures. Parks need a deeper commitment than simply espousing that their worth is only to assure the pleasant pastimes of more and more people stacked one atop another in new urbanist enclaves. No, mayors cannot slough the essential care our parks require. Our parks are the domicile of lives more intimately attuned to and certainly more infinitely dependent upon the vitality of this good earth…now, in Denver, despicably compromised by infrastructure neglect.

Early in April, a lone Pelican roamed the surface of Berkeley Lake. The Pelicans, each spring, usually flock at Sloan’s Lake where, I suppose, the fish are more plentiful. And, yes, the Pelican who graced Berkeley in April, disappeared… most likely joining its compadres at Sloan’s. But, this morning he (I think it’s a “he”), returned to Berkeley, once again, alone, solitary, mixing with the Mallards and Wood Ducks, upending itself to dip its beak into the depths of the water searching for…yes, probably searching for fish which–unknown by the magnificent bird–are infested with mercury contamination.

I long to understand this solitary Pelican; his passion to leave the flock and venture alone to a place where his kind do not tarry.
berkeley-050407016.jpg

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees therby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

Henry Beston, The Outermost House

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2 Responses to Hickenlooper Fiddles the Feel-Good Ditty (While the infrastructure crumbles!)

  1. Suz at Large says:

    Good on ya, George (as the Aussies say)! I’m an infrastructure-noticing kind of girl myself, so I appreciate your taking on the subject.

    Yes, I’m baaack!

    After 25 days of seeing one fabulous thing after another in far away lands. Feels great to be home again. Just don’t ask me what time it is. Or what day…

    :-0

  2. georgeindenver says:

    Welcome home, kid. Will expect posts galore detailing the great adventure. Pics will be required, also.

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