About a month ago, I told you that DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis had presented Lehigh's Don Cunningham and Northampton's John Stoffa with a check for $200,000 for trees for their downtown areas and parks. Its called TreeVitalize, part of a plan to plant 1 million trees over the next five years. King Edwin I has called it a great program, especially for inner-city Allentown. It gives peasants a place to hide during drive by shootings.
Why would Lehigh County's legislators reject free money? If the state is giving them the money, why not spend it? It's really just a small amount in the big picture. The press wasn't there, so who will know? Don't they like trees?
This morning, Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning explains why they said no.
"The funding priorities of the State need to be readjusted. For example, Harrisburg is planning to make multimillion dollars reductions in the funding for Human Services and yet they are still intend to give out money to Counties to plant trees. Or as another example, Harrisburg has a statutory obligation to reimburse Counties for the salary (which is set by the State) of a full time District Attorney but they refuse to do that leaving Counties to cover that cost and yet they have money to plant trees.
"Included in those municipal that were to provide matching funds was Allentown in the amount of $25,000. This was presented as a quality of life issue for Allentown (and the other municipalities). My thoughts (and response) on that is that the number one quality of life issue in Allentown is crime and that the $25,000 the City was going to commit to plant trees would be better spent in adding police officers through the County's Safe Streets program where we each pay for 1/2 the salary of a community police office.
"On an overall basis the TreeVitalize program has benefits but given the current economic situation and the budget out look for the State, for Counties and for Municipalities it is time to focus on the basic responsibilities of government."