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It's Not A Just Revenue Problem in Arizona Parks, It's A Cost Problem

takes to the editorial page of our local paper to criticize current park management and the Arizona legislature for not sending enough money to parks"

Things were looking pretty good, and I guess that’s the problem. In some odd kind of way, employing some type of sideways logic, the Legislature deemed that if State Parks is getting along well, it must be out of our control. So, after 15 years of parks acting like a business, the Legislature decided to act like a government and take their money. A little bit here and there in the beginning, to test the public reaction, and then in breathtaking swaths.

Heritage Fund ... gone. Enhancement fund ... swiped. General fund? No way. A $250,000 bequest? Oops, they caught us; better put it back.

State Parks now has a mountainous backlog of maintenance projects all because the Legislature would rather wholly own a failure than share a success. We need to put people in the halls that care about those things that we want our children to enjoy, and a governor who will stand in the breach when the next onslaught appears.

I agree with Travous that our parks could use some more funds.  But what Mr. Travous ignores is that the seeds of this problem were very much sown on his watch.

Travous points out that revenues in the parks expanded to nearly $10 million when he was in charge.  But left unsaid is that at the same time agency expenses on his watch ballooned to a preposterous $33 million a year**.  At every turn, Travous made decisions that increased the agency's costs.  For example, park rangers were all given law enforcement certifications, substantially increasing their pay and putting them all into the much more expensive law enforcement pension fund.  There is little evidence this was necessary -- Arizona parks generally are not hotbeds of crime -- but it did infuriate many customers as some rangers focused more on citation-writing than customer service.  There is a reason McDonald's doesn't write citations in their own parking lot.

What Mr. Travous fails to mention is that the parks were falling apart on his watch - even with these huge budgets - because he tended to spend money on just about anything other than maintaining current infrastructure.  Infrastructure maintenance is not sexy, and sexy projects like the Kartchner Caverns development (it is a gorgeous park) always seem to win out in government budgeting.  You can see why in this editorial -- Kartcher is his legacy, whereas bathroom maintenance is next to invisible.  I know deferred maintenance was accumulating during his tenure because Arizona State Parks itself used to say so.  Way back in 2009 I saw a book Arizona State Parks used with legislators.  It showed pictures of deteriorating parks, with notes that many of these locations had not been properly maintained for a decade.  The current management inherited this problem from previous leaders like Travous, it did not create it.

So where were those huge budgets going, if not to maintenance?  Well, for one, Travous oversaw a crazy expansion of the state parks headquarters staff.    When he left, there were about 150 people (possibly more, it is hard to count) on the parks headquarters staff.  This is almost the same number of full-time employees that were actually in the field maintaining parks.  As a comparison, our company runs public parks and campgrounds very similar to those in Arizona State Parks and we serve about the same number of visitors -- but we have only 1.5 people in headquarters, allowing us to put our resources on the ground in parks serving customers and performing maintenance.  None of the 100+ parks we operate have the same deferred maintenance problems that Arizona State Parks have, despite operating with less than a third of the budget that Travous had in his heyday.

I am not much of a political analyst, but my reading is that the legislature cut park funds because it lost confidence in the ability of Arizona State Parks to manage itself.   Did they really need to cut, say, $250,000 from parks to close a billion dollar budget hole?  Arizona State Parks had its budgets cut because the legislature did not think it was acting fiscally prudent, like cutting off a child's allowance after he has shown bad judgement.

I have met with current Director Bryan Martyn and much of the Arizona State Park staff.  Ken Travous is not telling them anything they do not know.  Of course they would like more funds to fix up their parks.  But they understand that before they can expect any such largess, they need to prove that Arizona State Parks will use its funds in a fiscally sensible manner.  And I get the impression that they are succeeding, that the legislature is gaining confidence in this agency.  The irony is that  Arizona State Parks will be able to grow and get more funds only when it has overcome the problems Travous left for them.

 

 ** Footnote:  Getting an actual budget number for ASP is an arduous task.  I once talked to a very smart local consultant named Grady Gammage who worked with parks and finally despaired of accurately laying out the budget and allocating it to tasks.  What this achieves is that it allows insiders to criticize anyone they want as being "misinformed" because almost any number one picks is wrong.   The $33 million figure comes from outside consulting reports.  The headcount numbers come from numbers the ASP information officer gave me several years ago.  Headcount numbers are different today but the ones above are relevant to the agency as it existed when Travous left.

ACME Featured Product XIII

This is a revival, in honor of our upcoming 1-year anniversary, of what used to be a regular feature on this site, and is explained .

In the spirit of what will probably be known as natural disaster month, comes this coyote favorite:

k彩平台登陆Tornado

ACME Featured Product XII

A regular feature, it is explained .

Usually, to keep with our theme, I try to stick with products used by our friend the coyote. Given that the weekend is approaching, though, and you may be looking for the right purchase to start out your weekend, consider this great ACME product:

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I can imagine the pricing:
Talking Model: $20.00
Non-Talking Model: $30.00

Enjoy!

ACME Featured Product XI

This series explained .  You can find all of our past featured products here.

Our ACME product this week was chosen to help me walk all over Disney World chasing my two kids.

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ACME Featured Product X

This series explained .  You can find all of our past featured products here.

Today's featured product is an ACME classic.  Not necessarily high tech or sexy, but one in which ACME has a tremendous world market share.  No self respecting cartoon character would drop any other brand anvil but ACME!

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ACME Featured Product IX

This series explained, and other past featured products, .

This week's product was purchased by the Bush administration, soon to be used in Fallujah:

k彩平台登陆Ultimatum1   k彩平台登陆Altimatum2

Cartoon Laws of Physics

This is something very familiar to our friend the coyote. Check out . Here's an example:

Cartoon Law I
Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.

Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.

k彩平台登陆Gravity

ACME Featured Product VIII

This series explained, and other past featured products, .

Today's feature is just in time for Halloween, the ACME Super Hero suit. The great thing about this product was that the suit not only looked, uh, sortof cool, kindof, but it conferred super powers on the wearer. Unless, of course, the wearer was a coyote.

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Coyote v. ACME

Two of my blogging interests in one - ACME and litigation. This is a reprint of an article by Ian Frazier years ago in the New Yorker, but it is still funny. The complaint in the case of . ACME's response is .

ACME Featured Product VII

A regular feature, it is explained .

Today, in honor our our server which seems to be a bit slow, this fine ACME product:

k彩平台登陆Speed

ACME Featured Product VI

A regular feature, it is explained .

Usually, to keep with our theme, I try to stick with products used by our friend the coyote. Given that its almost Friday night, though, and you may be looking for the right purchase to start out your weekend, consider this great ACME product:

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I can imagine the pricing:
Talking Model: $20.00
Non-Talking Model: $30.00

Have a great weekend!

ACME Featured Product V

A regular feature, it is explained here. Many of our ACME products come courtesy of .

Back in the corporate world, I could have really used this to sneak out of meetings.

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ACME Product of the Day IV

A regular feature, it is explained here. Many of our ACME products come courtesy of .

Once again, ACME is way ahead of its time. Below are the ACME rocket skates:

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And here is the modern copy-cat product from motosk8 (courtesy of )
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ACME Product of the Day III

A regular feature, it is explained here. Many of our ACME products come courtesy of .

This is an awesome product. The ACME dehydrating technology was always tops. These are perfect for pitching into an unloved neighbor's swimming pool. Not sure I would add water while holding it in my hand, though...

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ACME Product of the Day II

A regular feature, it is explained here. Many of our ACME products come courtesy of .

Today's featured product is the ACME jet powered pogo stick. Let's send one to .

k彩平台登陆Pogo1

k彩平台登陆Pogo2

The Coyote Always Buys ACME!

If you checked out our "about" section, you will see that one of the reasons this site is named "coyote blog" is to honor that great American businessman (err, thing) Wile E. Coyote and that most famous of all corporations: ACME. has a really funny and nostalgic catalog of those great ACME products.

This one was always one of my favorites:

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Of course, none of the products ever worked right, but the good folks at ACME were WAY ahead of their time. They already knew to have good in-house lawyers plastering warning labels all over every products:

k彩平台登陆Acmeearthquakepillssmallprint_3