When city officials in Denver, Colorado first received federal stimulus money, they may have had trouble seeing the forest through the trees — 4,000 trees, to be precise.
CBS Denver reports that the Mile High City spent at least $600,000 in federal funds to plant 4,000 trees in the yards of homeowners, sending city workers door-to-door begging people to take the complimentary saplings.
“This fella said, ‘How would you like to have a tree in your yard?’” said John Backlund, the resident of an upscale Denver neighborhood who lives in a house worth over $700,000.
“Too good of a deal to say no to,” he continued. “I was happy to get the free tree.”
Because the city’s tree program had no income limit, many were planted in front of million-dollar homes that could have easily afforded the $150 each cost of a sapling.
“It’s open to anybody,” city forester Rob Davis said. “It’s basically if you live in Denver, you want to reduce energy costs, you want to have a tree that can raise your property value, go to the web page to sign up.”
Davis explained that the program, which has since been closed, helped stimulate the local economy by providing tree-planting jobs for those out of work, as well as reducing long-term energy costs by providing shade for homes .
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is buying it. “It’s good to know that the rich people in Denver can finally get some of their stimulus money back by getting a free tree,” said Jon Caldara, president of the Colorado-based Independence Institute. “What this shows is how much waste there is in government.”
But believe it or not, Denver’s “free tree” stimulus program is hardly unique. Georgia procured nearly $900,000 for its own “Tree Planting for Ecosystem Restoration and Green Jobs” program.
Florida spent a cool $1.5 million planting 8,000 oaks and elms to make its cities look “a little fresher.” And Nevada shelled out $490,000 to plant 2,500 saplings, though to be fair some of that money also went to “tree care classes” for Spanish-speaking workers in eco-friendly industries.
“Let me make it clear,” Caldara said, “people investment in trees themselves. There is not a need for government to do that for them.”
“What the government needs to do is take care of the core functions of government and let people buy their own damn trees,” he finished.
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