Okay. So there’s this fellow, Bill Airy, who apparently has endeared himself to the management of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) with the promise that Denver’s parks could become dog-poop-free if only DPR memorializes a contract or agreement with Mister Airy to provide biodegradable poop bags that would replace citizen-provided plastic bags–newspaper bags, primarily–that are currently available, usually from half-gallon milk jugs, hung on fences or poles within our parks. The rub here is that Mister Airy’s bright idea would also require that DPR allow Mister Airy to place advertising (presumably from for-profit companies, corporations) upon whatever poles or devices he will provide to dispense his product…the biodegradable bags. Mister Airy’s website provides a quite altruistic intent for his endeavor, including the incredible notion that, by utilizing his services, Denver’s Parks could become poop-free.
Dare I be skeptical?
I’m reminded of the quote from George Washington Plunkett of New York’s Tammany Hall fame who, when asked about his success within the organization, noted: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”
First off, I’m not certain if Mister Airy’s and DPR’s contract or agreement is a done deal or not. I am certain that DPR is dealing with Mister Airy as a “sole source” for this service, which is to say this contract or agreement has not been bid, has not seen the light of competitive bidding which is the hallmark of governmental “best practices” procurement.
That said, another important observation is that Mister Airy’s selling-point that Denver’s Parks could become poop-free if his services were to be utilized, is about as logically sound, realistically achievable as the proverbial “peace in our time,” in a world full of contradictions and opposing ideologies, principally theocratic imperatives, that beg scrutiny as to the elusive nature of the same. My point here–which I think survives my exaggeration–is that Mister Airy’s suggestion that Denver’s parks will become poop-free is nonsense. Those responsible dog owners have, do and will continue to pick-up after their pets…whether they use biodegradable sacks or newspaper wrappings. Irresponsible pet ownes have, do and will continue NOT to pick-up after their pets regardless of whether biodegradable bags are made available or not. Fact of life.
There is a fundamental question that I think we all need to consider. Do we want to sell Denver’s parks to the entrepreneurial machinations of those who would wish to make a buck off the utilization of our OUR PARKS for their own self-gain? That’s an easy one for me to answer. NO! (You do notice the exclamation point!) In fact, as unsightly as dog poop is in our parks, methinks the presence of for-profit advertising in our parks is just as unsightly, just as disturbing.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has announced their plans to go forward with this project. The relevant components of the program, as well the trepidation for such a selling of our parks endeavor, is provided in a recent news release from the INC, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, that reads as follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Neighborhoods Oppose Denver Plan for Commercial Advertising Signs
on Dog Waste Bag Dispensers in Public Parks
Denver, Colorado (April 11, 2009)
By a vote of 18 to nothing, with five abstentions, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) delegates are seeking a moratorium on a plan to put up advertising signs on animal waste bag dispensers in several city parks. INC is a city-wide association of many of Denver’s largest and most active registered neighborhood organizations.
The request for a delay in implementation of the pilot project comes in a letter to be sent to Parks and Recreation Manager Kevin Patterson. His assistant, Angela Casias, attended the INC delegates’ meeting Saturday to explain and defend the proposal.
Casias says the plan focuses on the areas with the greatest problem of animal waste, the Rivers and Trails District and the Northwest District. City Park is not on the original list of parks to get the dispensers with advertising but, “all parks are still under evaluation.”
The letter says the requested moratorium would be in effect “until RNOs (Registered Neighborhood Organizations), other interested parties and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board have been included in a process to discuss the proposed pilot project. In the process, information could be shared on the assessment of the impacts and desirability of the dog waste project, the exploration of other alternatives that would help with the management of dog waste in parks and the project’s adherence to the intent of the City laws, regulations and policies.”
Casias claims dealing with dog waste in the city’s parks may cost the city up to $100,000 per year. She explains that the company called Poo Free Parks would be “totally responsible for maintaining signs and dispensers, and keeping the dispensers stocked with biodegradable bags.” Sign advertising presumably would pay for operating the dispenser program and the city would get no additional revenue.
[Excuse me if I interject myself at this time. I’m curious about the $100,000 that would still be required of the city to deal with dog waste. I’m curious about what kind of numbskull would go into a contract or agreement with an entrepreneur and not demand, or at least investigate the possibility, that the city, you and me, would get a piece of whatever profit is made on this endeavor.]
Casias acknowledged that Parks and Recreation policy prohibits “permanent” signs, but the signs to be placed on the poles holding the bag dispensers are “temporary” because “the contract requires the company to offer only six-month sponsorship agreements.”
Because the bag dispenser operation is what Casias calls “kind of a new business,” the company headed by Bill Airy was selected without competitive bidding. She says the project would be open to competitive bidding after the first year if there are any other interested operators. According to Casias, the City Attorney’s office has been asked for and has given its blessing to these unusual interpretations of city ordinances and regulations.
Some of those attending the meeting indicated they didn’t think “voluntary” homemade bag dispensers set up by concerned residents were effective. “I’d rather see a well-maintained sign instead of plastic bottles full of newspaper wrappers,” said non-delegate Ken Beaudrie.
A northwest Denver delegate, Bill Johnson, says the “integrity of our parks system” is the real price. “The overriding issue is, and has been, private advertising in public parks,” comments Johnson. “Are we going to be crossing the Rubicon (by allowing the signs)?”
Several members of the INC Parks Committee and other critics contend the plan to allow advertising signs conflicts with Parks Department guidelines. Opponents also say the bag dispenser project could be contrary to the City Charter’s language which grants decision-making authority to Parks administration.
In spite of the resolution to seek a moratorium until the plan can be fully and publicly discussed, Casias maintains Parks representatives have met with various neighborhood groups and “we’ve gotten positive response.” She says samples of the signs were not previously available “because the contract was just finalized last Friday (4/10).”
Casias did not present any example of the signs. She also did not explain why the proposal is not presented on the Parks and Recreation web site. Casias says Parks did not want to present the plan to the citizens’ Parks and Recreation Advisory Board until the contract is finished.
The original proposal calls for up to 150 signs in five to ten parks. Casias says it’s more likely there would be 100 signs, meaning each of the ten parks in the pilot program would get approximately 10 signs.
Now, back to Mister Airy. Mister Airy’s LLC, Poo Free Parks, is registered with the Colorado Secretary of State. That registration occurred on February 23, 2009. (“I seen my opportunities!) The description of business to be transacted under the LLC filing is noted as, “…Advertising and Marketing Services.” Nope, nothing about environmental endeavors which–if that had been part of the description of business to be transacted–to my thinking, would indicate some altruistic intent, some notion that money is not the only object here. But, nope. Just advertising and marketing.
I suppose it’s also important to note that, after a review of the Secretary of State’s on-line documentation, Poo Free Parks LLC, has or had had some connection with a company called, Dean Arrow and Associates LLC. Yup, you guessed it. Dean Arrow and Associates, a web integration service that concentrates on building one’s business, marketing, accounting. Nah, nothing about environmental endeavors.
I’ll let this one go here, with the suggestion that the concerns expressed above by the INC are notable, important. I especially appreciated: “A northwest Denver delegate, Bill Johnson, says the ‘integrity of our parks system’ is the real price. The overriding issue is, and has been, private advertising in public parks,’ comments Johnson. ‘Are we going to be crossing the Rubicon (by allowing the signs)?’”
Ah, indeed, Mister Johnson.