Time to Trim the Deadwood

Click here for the full report: Nice Work if You Can Get It

deadwoodWith Kasim Reed’s recent announcement of needing to lay off 130 city employees to meet the City’s budget, the field arborists’ productivity records put them squarely in the firing line. The most recent data the City has provided (Jan - Feb 2011) shows that not much has changed since we began reporting on their work from a year ago.  All three field arborists continue to have numerous days in which they report no work: an average of 25% (to as much as 40% for one particular arborist).

And on the days they do work, it’s not much work at all.  Tree inspections don't take very long -- maybe ten minutes each.  If a field arborist is spending half his time in the field, he could easily manage a minimum of 12 inspections a day.  But instead, 12 is the average number of daily inspections that occur among all three arborists, which means the City of Atlanta is paying three employees to do the work of one.  And because the City has run out of money, the City is now raiding the Tree Trust Fund, using that money to pay these field arborists' salaries instead of planting new trees.

The latest work records also show that not one single enforcement action occurred during the two month time period examined.  This means that not one field arborist stumbled across a single tree removed illegally in the entire city of Atlanta.  Hard to believe?  Yes, we thought so, too, especially when we know the backyard at 2598 Sharondale Drive was completely stripped of all its trees during this time period.  According to the inspection report filed after the next door neighbor complained, city arborist David Tachon not only failed to count how many trees over 6" were removed without a permit, but he decided not to issue a citation because he saw that some of the cut trees were of an "undesirable species".  So?  Any tree over 6" DBH -- including undesirable species -- requires a permit to be cut down.  There are no exceptions.  Tachon is being paid to enforce the law, not to reinterpret the law.

But unfortunately, given that there is no record of any enforcements anywhere in the city, it appears that what happened at 2598 Sharondale may be the norm rather than the exception.

Which brings the question back full circle to:  Why, in light of the City's budget issues does the City keep paying our field arborists to not do their jobs?  As Mayor Reed considers who needs to go during this next round of layoffs, we ask him to carefully consider where he is getting the least value for his money.

The Arborist Division might be a logical place to start.

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