Friday, April 5, 2013

City Police are Demoralized

Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 9/5/12.  
Honorable Councilors, Mayor, and Manager:
          I went to Baker Park to see if that trash pit had been cleaned at all since I complained two weeks ago.  It was still a trash pit.  I watched a woman come and clean the bathrooms and leave.  Two weeks ago, I watched 4 men in an Aspire truck empty two trash cans.  Apparently, that’s all the city does in that park, while the trash and weeds pile up in and around it. 

                                Baker Park, litter in the parking lot
          A police officer rode in on his motorcycle.  I had to ask him if he was there in response to the litter compliant I’d called in.  Of course not, but he said that he had complained numerous times about the trash himself.  He said that he’d talked every year to Parks about thinning out the weeds so police could see people camping.  He was down there to see who he could cite for disorderly conduct offenses.  We had a nice chat, commiserating about the mess.

                                       Baker Park, weeds

          I call this man a police officer for good reason; he is one who actually tries to keep public order, for which he is widely hated among the disorderly poor.  Unfortunately, he is not allowed to cite richer people or organizations for letting their property become disorderly, like Baker Park. 
That power was taken away under Manager David Frasher after police and firemen were combined and called Public Safety, when Code Enforcement was created and later called Community Service Officers, or CSOs.  Public Safety officers are not allowed to notice and cite weeds and litter, and even CSOs work only by citizen or supervisor complaint.  A year or so ago, when I tried to get a passing CSO to look at a problem, he said that I had to call it in, and then he would be told to look at it.
With supervisors who pick and choose what will be looked at and who do their best to discourage citizen complaints, powerful landowners have become safe from citation for allowing their properties to become disorderly nuisances.  A few properties get abated, but one can complain about others repeatedly and nothing is done.
          And now, as he pointed out, he can cite, but the disorderly poor mostly don’t care, because we have no jail space for disorderly conduct or failures to appear for it.  He seemed to be thoroughly demoralized, as others must be also.  They signed up to police, not just enforce state laws.  Please eliminate the CSO department and ask all of your officers to read our nuisance code and enforce it on sight.  

How to Kill Goatheads and Star Thistle

Comment to the Josephine County Commissioners and Grants Pass City Council, 8-30-12

There are two noxious weeds that are growing throughout our town: goatheads, AKA puncture vine, tack vine, bullthorns and caltrops; and star thistle, a thistle that has thorns only on its flower buds.  They are both weeds of non-residential commercial and public landscapes, because most people don’t tolerate them where they live, even if they put up with all kinds of other weeds.  In 12 years of professional gardening, I have seen them at exactly one residence.  Working there made me get a flat-free wheelbarrow tire.

                                         Goathead flower

Meanwhile, I have watched bullheads move onto downtown properties like the three across F Street from the Growers’ Market parking lot, and star thistle taking over vacant lots and the underused edges of public properties.  They are mostly weeds of organizations that do not love their neighbours by obeying our city’s nuisance codes.
Unlike windblown weeds, these do not travel far or fast.  Goathead seeds spread on bike tires, wheelbarrows, and riding mowers; high speed travel apparently crushes them, and few people or dogs carry them far on their feet.  One would think that star thistle would spread on the wind, like other thistles, but they don’t.  They cling to the plant and are picked up on clothing and spread by mowers as well.

                                 goathead seeds

This year, I am getting a lot of practice killing these two weeds on the City’s Water Reclamation Plant property at the end of Greenwood, in preparation for the dog park that the City, at my suggestion, wants to build east of the walking path to the Reinhart Volunteer Park.  I spend about 20 minutes a day on the task, before and while I walk my dog.  The ground is very dry and hard, and they don’t pull, my normal weeding method, so I have been cutting them under the crown, which appears to work well.

  Star Thistle:

Annual weeds like goatheads and star thistle build up food in their roots until they flower, and then move that energy into their crowns and tops as they flower and seed.  Cutting to two inches high, the height at which most people mow and whack weeds, only slows down flowering above mower height, and doesn’t touch flowers below that point.  The tall ones like star thistle grow right back above it; the crawlers like goatheads are not affected, except that mowers spread their seed.  Cutting annuals below the crown takes out the source of flowers, and the roots cannot recover.

   Young star thistle (

Whacking either weed all the way to the ground can take out most of the crowns, but spreads any ripe goathead seeds.  Pruning scissors are more effective; allow one to pick up the ripe goatheads; and may even be faster, though one has to stoop to do the work, because it takes a lot of whacking to kill a crown or cut below it.  Star thistles have tough stems, but their crowns are often 2 inches or more off the ground, and are readily cut even with dull scissors, which they will be after much cutting in the dirt.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener         541-955-9040

Fairgrounds Weeds Are Prospering

Speech to the Josephine County Commissioners, 8-29-12
Honorable Commissioners:
          I was catching up on Couriers that I had missed over the last few weeks, and found a Guest Opinion from August 10th by our Fair Manager, headlined “By every measure, fairgrounds prospering.”  This was taken from his own words, “By every measuring stick, the fairgrounds is prospering.” 
Certainly the weeds along the western end are prospering; many of the newest windblown nuisance in our area are a good yard tall and about to bloom.  This particular weed is not as ugly as wild lettuce, but it spreads the same way, on the wind, and is probably even more of a fire hazard.  Certainly, it does its share of collecting and holding litter for all to see.  The blackberries growing down the fence and slowly taking over the parking lot are also prospering. This is the end where all visitors to the Fair were sent to park and walk in, the only open entrance.  It is not a good introduction to the Fair or to Redwood Avenue, where it sets the tone for the entire street.
Just before the Fair, a woman came to speak for the horse owners and told the Board that she was collecting petition signatures of people who have no confidence in Wes Brown.  One of her complaints was a lack of maintenance of facilities, including not cleaning restrooms or emptying trash cans.  I signed it because he is doing nothing to maintain the landscape to city code: to love our neighbours by controlling our weeds and to present a neat appearance to visitors and residents alike.  He ignored the single e-mail I sent him on the subject, so I talk to you, his bosses.
In his article, he complains twice that he doesn’t understand why some people have a problem with his management, calling us “short-sighted and ignorant at the outpouring of public support for the fairgrounds” in the first instance, and “sceptical” of his “accomplishments” in the second.  But he doesn’t address any of our complaints, just like he ignored my e-mail.
Being a Fairgrounds Manager is more than putting on events and ignoring the condition of the facilities where they take place.  It includes cleaning and maintenance.  He touts the fact that the Fair finished its fiscal year in the black.  This was at the expense of our facilities: the land and the buildings.  Deferred maintenance does not go away; it becomes more expensive.  He manages at the expense of his neighbours and county taxpayers.  We are not “sceptical.”  We are angry at his short-sighted ignorance of our concerns.