Tuesday, January 6, 2009

City Manager, Joyce Wilson, Takes Action on Escarpment

Yesterday I wrote our City Manager, Joyce Wilson, about the damage done to and littering of our Mayfield "Park". Here is what I wrote:

"Ms. Wilson,

I am writing you as a board member of the Newman Park Neighborhood Association.

There is a lovely natural escarpment that has graced our neighborhood for decades. Neighbors often fondly refer to it as “Mayfield Park” even though it is not an actual city park. (It is, however, city property.) This escarpment sits at the western end of Savannah, Frankfort and Memphis Avenues. Mayfield Terrace and then the Franklin Mountains describe its western boundary. It is home to mesquite, Palo Verde, creosote, quail and desert sparrows to say the least. Foxes frequent it and even our Franklin Mountain female cougar has been spotted there. It has been visited by serious birdwatchers. It is a lovely place.

Recently the City replaced water and sewer lines in the alleyway between Savannah and Frankfort. City workers and the contractors that the City hired littered the area with their lunch bags, plastic grocery sacks, drink cartons, plastic water bottles and so forth. Chief Justice David Chew, his wife, Mandy, and Judge Chew’s sister, District Court Judge Linda Chew, all pitched in to clean up the litter. Additionally, the workers crushed brush and broke tree limbs with their backhoes and dirt movers.
They simply plowed through without any consideration to the natural beauty of the escarpment.

Since workers littered and molested landscape at this project, you know that they are doing so on all other projects all over the City. You know that those who supervise are complicit.

With all of El Paso’s great efforts to make this a more beautiful city and to
encourage people to pick-up and clean-up, allowing (through neglect and failure to supervise) city workers and hired private contractors to litter and to destroy natural landscapes seems to be sending a mixed message and to be counter-productive to any program to make El Paso a cleaner and more attractive city.

Is there a possibility that a policy can be drafted that requires workers and their supervisors to use litter bags and to be mindful of natural surroundings with failure to do so resulting in some significant penalty? Can a similar policy be written that requires private contractors to do the same with failure to do so resulting in being taken off the official list of City contractors for a significant period of time? What I have in mind is not just a memo to department heads and supervisors, but a serious, deliberate, protracted effort and program to make workers, supervisors, department heads, contractors, etc. responsible to the environment. Mere memorandums about the problems will not result in a genuine shift in values.

As always whenever I write a message such as this, I volunteer to do whatever I can to assist the City in dealing with these issues. I assume that, if I’m “complaining”, I should be willing to pitch in and be part of the solution whatever time that it takes. For nearly twenty years now, the Chews and Bob and Jeanne Foskett have been good stewards of Mayfield “Park”. They have kept it clean and cared for. Mr. Foskett has even created lovely, natural signs telling hikers and walkers the names of some of the trees and shrubs. I’m sure that the Newman Park Neighborhood Association under its Park Partner Agreement can help maintain this beautiful setting. If all of us together can get creative, we can find ways to love this place and all other such open, natural spaces in our neighborhoods throughout El Paso.

Thank you for all the great work that you are doing for the City of El Paso. I am very grateful to you and very appreciative of your leadership."

She responded:
"Thanks for bringing this problem to my attention. I will follow up with City engineering staff to determine who was the contractor on this particular project and what oversight we provided. I also will have someone to go out and look at the site and assess whether or not the contractor can be made to repair any damage to the natural area. We can include provisions in our contracts to ensure that contractors who do business with the city also do not violate any environmental codes and policies such as you describe. I will make sure we are doing so as a matter
of practice going forward, if we do not already specify this in our agreements. The same applies to City employees. We have administrative policies governing all sorts of conduct and behavior and I can work with HR to formally address these expectations as well.

I concur that we must set the standard if we are going to be assertive in enforcing compliance with our environmental codes, as well as encourage our citizens to be attentive to our community’s appearance and cleanliness, as well as its natural spaces.

Best to you for 2009. Thanks for the efforts you and the association are making on behalf of the City and your neighborhood."
Now that is leadership!

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