So first, the good news.
After I wrote a blog post yesterday calling out the City of Fresno for its daily watering of Augusta Street alongside Cary Park, a wide range of friends and strangers on Facebook, Twitter, and in local media responded by sharing, retweeting, and engaging with the story. This morning, as I made my morning walk, the sprinklers were off for the first time this week and the city’s overwatering of Cary Park was paused–for now.
Now, the bad news.
As my new video above shows, there’s still a busted City of Fresno sprinkler head on the SE corner of Cary Park, where the water has been leaking into the street 24/7 for at least four days. The broken sprinkler head is on the edge of the park where people with cars–including city vehicles–often drive over the curb and onto the park’s grass. Local journalist Mariana Jacob and a news crew from ABC30 captured the quiet gusher in action yesterday as well, as part of their story on the challenges of water wasting that both the city and others are facing. It aired last night on ABC30’s 11 o’clock news.
Here’s what upsets me about the city’s response. In the ABC30 story, the city’s public works director, Scott Mozier, blames the homeless for the broken sprinkler head, rather than accepting responsibility himself. He says: “People [are] vandalizing and breaking into boxes to be able to get water out of the system, and sometimes that’s damaging the irrigation system.”
The homeless? Really, Mr. Mozier? Yes, the city’s public relations strategy for owning up to its own water wasting and lack of oversight and prompt fixes to public parks seems to be to blame the homeless, some of the most vulnerable people in our city, a group that our mayor and city manager saw fit to flush from downtown in a series of removals the past two years. A friend of mine on Facebook yesterday commented that he’d heard from neighbors near Einstein Park that sometimes the city would run the sprinklers in that park all night in order to keep the homeless from sleeping there. I thought that might have just been a rumor, but perhaps giving the city the benefit of the doubt on having such a strategy would be too kind.
So, let me be clear.
First: Dear city, please come and fix this gushing sprinkler head in Cary Park. Mr. Mozier told ABC30 that when fixes are reported, “We will be jumping on that. If there’s a repair that needs to be made, we’ll make it happen.” How about today?
Second: Dear city, own your mistakes and stop blaming others. If the city’s high-paid communications director, Mark Standriff, is asking local journalists (like VPR’s Ezra Romero, in the above photo’s Twitter exchange) to give the city a chance to have its voice heard, it better be ready to point the finger at itself when necessary.
Finally, as the city prepares to move us to “Stage 2” watering restrictions on Aug. 1, which will include fines for violators who run water unchecked into the street, I ask this question: Is the city prepared to fine itself the state-mandated $500 per day for mistakes like this broken sprinkler head in Cary Park, as it seems poised to fine residents?
The city says to call 559 621-5300 to report problems you see with the city’s water wasting in parks and medians. I say, take them up on it.