by Dave Felice for DenverDirect
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. 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. More...