Monday, February 19, 2007

Not all news is bad news. . .however

I spent a few days fishing with my son, Jason, cruising the mangroves in a flat-bottom boat in southwest Florida this past week. The fishing was so-so (barely enough keeper sheepsheads to make a good meal) but the company and the scenery were incredible.
Glad to report that the world kept on spinning in my absence. Sad to report that most of the news (at least the news reported in the local media across the U.S.A. wasn't so good.) Or, as we used to say at the newspaper office the painful morning after a particularly long night at the local watering hole discussing the world's misadventures — “The news never sleeps . . . and neither do we!”
Here’s what’s been happening while I was tossing shrimp into the backwaters:

— the State of Michigan is debating a 2% tax on services, including lawn care. Lawn care providers there think it’s almost a sure thing since the state budget is in bad shape. Those of us in living and working in or near Michigan know that things aren’t so happy in the Motor City, or anywhere where the Big Three have a big presence. Lawn care folks in Michigan tell us that the tax creates a problem because some of their customers have prepaid and there’s no way to recover the 2%.

— A former bookkeeper of a lawn care business in Lincoln, NE, and her son each got sentences of 2-4 years in prison for stealing nearly $200,000 from the company. The two were also ordered to repay the company more than $250,000. The bookkeeper reportedly took the money over a period of three years to finance her son’s towing business and race car, reported the Associated Press. (My sister, who runs a business in eastern Pennslyvania got ripped off by a bookkeeper in a similar scam several years ago. Owners, keep your eyes open.)

— A landscape company in Oswego, IL, mistakenly cut down 31 trees at a 7.5-acre assisted-living development last month. Ouch! Now someone has to cough up more than $27,000 to replace the trees. The excuse being used is that the landscapers “misidentified” the markings on the trees as signs that they were to be removed. For the article in the Suburban Chicago News click here.

— “Gimme Green,” focusing on America’s “obsession” with lawns, got its world premiere at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 18. This is definitely something that will NOT win the Professional Landcare Network’s “Best-Film-of-the-Year” Award. Here’s how one newspaper described the 27-minute film: “Gimme Green manages to touch on the most important issues involved with America’s lawns. It uses the visual absurdity of lush yards in Southwest deserts to show how home irrigation sucks up vital aquifers and follows a chemical crew as it sprays pesticides on a patch of suburbia. But mostly the film relies on numbers to make its statement. (Children who play on chemical-sprayed lawns are 6.5 times more likely to develop Leukemia).”
Here’s a link to the article describing the movie.

— A suburban Chicago landscaper will be spending some time in federal prison after being convicted of bribing a Chicago city official to get $8 million in contractors, including work at the city’s famed Millennium Park Here’s the link to a Jan. 31 news report announcing the sentencing of Michael Lowecki, owner of James Michael Inc. Click here , the link to an earlier article describing the scam that landed the landscaper in deep trouble.

— And finally, the Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill that would prohibit commercial providers of lawn care services from broadly applying pesticides and fertilizers onto impervious surfaces such as streets and driveways. (Folks, can it be that we’ve been so sloppy with our applications that we’ve been feeding sidewalks and driveways or not cleaning them off after applications? If that’s the case, maybe we should get spanked.)

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