When there are zero trees in the forest of Thousand Oaks, OR, Bad timing breeds awareness towards nothing

May 7, 2009

An empty forest? No wait, it's Thousand Oaks.

An empty forest? No wait, it's Thousand Oaks.

This month, the City of Thousand Oaks will hold its annual Public Works Awareness Week, honoring the men and women who hit the streets every day to repair severed water mains, fix cracks in the pavement, and who make keep mended the precious infrastructure we all take for granted.

This week, city officials also laid off 10 of its public works employees.

I’m reminded of the phrase, “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

So, if Thousand Oaks is a forest (hence its name), I can think of a crude, yet effective, analogy:

If the city holds a public works party and there are no public works employees left, does anybody show up?

We appreciate city officials’ daring honesty; after all, there isn’t anybody in this country, governmental, private or otherwise, who hasn’t tightened their proverbial belts in some way to save money in this Recession-come-Depression we’re living through in 2009. Making cuts to valued, longtime staff is hard.

It could happen to you or me. “At-will” employment has taken on a whole new meaning.

But could the T.O. City Council have had worse timing in all this? The fashion, and the manner, suggests that by the time Public Works Awareness Week arrives on May 17, 10 more employees could be handed their pink slips.

Granted, these were employees who were awarded retirement buyouts up to $20K each. Essentially, they were about to leave anyway. Still, this morale killer in the midst of a morale-boosting campaign is a bit … well, devoid of morale.

“Revitalize, Reinvest, Renew” is the theme of this year’s National Public Works Week. In Thousand Oaks? “Layoff, Buyout, Goodbye,” is more like it.

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