In a letter to Public Works Director Yader Bermudez, Richmond resident Charles T. Smith has high praise and concern for city workers who perform the backbreaking work of maintenance without herbicides.
I want to commend you and your staff for doing your work above and beyond the call of duty.
I am a founding member of the citizen volunteer group, Point Molate Friends (we had to change our name from Friends of Point Molate), which over the past two years has helped the City maintain Point Molate Beach Park. We have always enjoyed your and your staff’s support.
As a resident of Richmond, living a block away from Tiller Park and Mira Vista Park, I’ve also witnessed your staff maintaining our neighborhood parks. I’ve been walking my dogs past Tiller Park once a day for years and can attest to the diligence of the work crews. On more than one occasion I’ve expressed my appreciation in writing for the work your crews have done in maintaining Tiller Park.
I keep abreast of the City’s finances so I’m aware of cutbacks when they happen. As a retired blue-collar worker, I know how cutbacks impact a workforce, causing layoffs and requiring the remaining workers to pick up the slack, which can be a stressful experience.
A few months ago I witnessed City workers at Tiller Park removing by hand weeds as high as three feet. It was backbreaking work. I talked with one of the workers about the work and he confirmed that it was extremely difficult and that it stressed his back. He also informed me that having to do this weeding by hand was a result of the City deciding to stop the use of herbicides.
I watched your recent presentation before the City Council when you spoke about the City’s herbicide policy and the resulting need to hire more workers. I had total empathy with you and your staff. I can’t address the issue of the herbicide dangers but I can address the issue of an overtaxed workforce. You are right to request more workers if the City expects the same results accomplished with the use of herbicides. It simply cannot be accomplished without more staffing.
Another issue I’m very concerned about is back injuries, one of the most common and debilitating injuries blue collar workers face every day of their working careers. What I witnessed at Tiller Park was a back injury waiting to happen.
I can only hope that the City Council takes these issues seriously. They have as big an obligation to protect City workers’ health and welfare as that of City residents.
Since the budget has been cut and staff has been reduced through attrition it is obvious that the workload also needs to be reduced regardless of the consequences to City aesthetics.
A member of the City Council suggested that possibly Richmond youth could help through summer employment but the suggestion ignores the fact that City workers would still need to perform supervisory functions and City insurance would be needed to cover the youth. In my opinion, this is not a well thought out idea.
Again, you have all my support and my respect for the good work you and your staff accomplish every day.
Charles T. Smith