Monday, July 17, 2006

CA park rangers' landlord seeks to raise the rent

If a bill currently under consideration in the California State Assembly passes, California State park rangers could see a huge rent increase for their state owned park housing. The bill seeks to raise the rent on nearly 500 ranger residences to current “market-value”.

Put park ranger presence first (Whittier Daily News)

A recent audit found the Department of Parks and Recreation provided about 480 housing units, the largest amount of any state department. Assembly Bill 1708, in a noble cause, tries to save the state some money by raising the rents on these and about 1,300 other units to so-called market value. But charging whatever the market will bear for this housing seems penny wise and pound foolish. Any lost revenue is compensated by these workers being onsite and ostensibly on-call at all hours.
The bill’s primary opponent, the California State Park Rangers Association, believes that the increase will make park housing unaffordable for rangers. This may cause rangers to seek cheaper housing away from the park or even quit their positions. The ranger association names numerous benefits for providing sub-market value park housing.

State Park Housing for Employees Under Attack in Assembly (California State Park Rangers Association)
Currently, and over the last 70+ years, employee residential units have been provided at less-than-market rates due to a number of factors:

o The inability of local law enforcement jurisdictions to respond to emergencies, especially in remote park locations;
o To make up for disruptions to off-duty life-residency in these "fish-bowl" homes comes with high levels of inconvenience and lack of privacy;
o To offset the fact that because of constant budgetary shortfalls maintenance levels for these aging residences are often well below community standards;
o To compensate for historically low wages-in most cases employees cannot afford to live in the communities surrounding their parks; as such, housing is a critical tool in recruiting and retaining employees.

Obviously, many highly trained and competent employees who would suddenly have to pay between 45%-80% of their income toward housing their families at AB 1708's "market rates" would be forced to leave employment with state parks to seek better-paying work in the private
sector. The unintended consequences of this bill would more than eliminate any fiscal savings it might generate for state government.


Mike said...

Well, I would pay a hell of a lot of cash to live in the cabin you pictured! I just could'nt do it for more than a month or so.
CA wardens have a Yahoo blog/message site. They are currently complaining and begging the Gov for money for a raise. Just another handout as far as I'm concerned. If they would simply do their jobs and write the stupid tickets there would be an abundance of money. At least that's the impression I get when I'm out and about.
Of course I joined to write something similar on thier site. It never posted and I gave up. I am tired of seeing netting of fish in a wild trout area and the like. How about simple littering? What about peeing in a stream? You guys have the authority and the alleged manpower (sorry, I know there is no manpower, there might be though, if you guys write the damn tickets!)
In CA, one is to display your license above the waist. I can't tell you how many unlicensed fishers I see let alone fishing with bait in fly only water, litering, illegal parking, etc. Simple stuff to write a violation for. Revenue enhancement if nothing else!
Anyway...back to the point...sorry if your landlord raises the rent. Join the rest of the human race.
Sorry if I sound like a bitter old sh*t! Hell, I'm probably ignorant as well but...seeing violations of game laws gets old and it's not just me that feels that way.
Whew! I feel better!
My best to you and keep the faith!

Ranger Gord said...

Thanks for your comments. Let me take a minute to make a few clarifications.

First, I am a park ranger, but I don't work in California. I am certainly not an expert on park housing in California, but if it is anything like the housing stock in my agency, then a lot of it is substandard. The park house I currently live in is a 35 year old double wide trailer with a rodent problem. Since I live at my worksite, it is difficult for me to leave work at work. For example, today is my day off, but I have already had 3 different people come to the house with issues about their visit to the park. You may be wondering, if it is so horrible, then why do you live there. Housing in my area is quite expensive. Before I got into a park house, I was paying 60% of my net salary on rent. That doesn't leave a lot of money to feed and cloth the kids. Without park housing, many ranger positions would go unfilled due to the low salary and high cost of living in some areas.

As far as writing more tickets to increase the budget, well in most states it just doesn't work that way. Last year I alone wrote about $40,000 worth of fines (which is more than my annual salary). How much of that money went into the park agency I work for? Zero. It all went to the county court to pay for the processing of the citations.

While I understand your frustration with people who don't obey the fish and game laws, I don't think California game wardens are just asking for another handout. All a game warden has to do is to confront criminals with high power rifles (which can shoot clean through a protective vest) by themselves in remote areas where radio communication is spotty at best and backup is a mere 1 to 3 hours away. For this simple task we will pay you from $37,000 to $50,000 a year. Is it any wonder that California Fish and Game is currently experiencing a 25% vacancy rate for their field enforcement officers?

For more info on California Game Wardens request for a salary increase, read this article in The Sacramento Bee: Game wardens feel their under the gun.

Don’t let the scofflaws get you down. Report them to your local ranger or warden. We need all the help we can get.