Rantz: Tree Equity job lands you $60.83 an hour from city of Seattle

Jul 2, 2024, 5:55 PM

Tree equity Seattle...

OSE Director Jessyn Farrell helps mulch trees at Roxhill Park. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment)

(Photo courtesy of Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment)

The city of Seattle is offering a six-figure salary for a Tree Equity Initiative Manager. If you show a bias towards a cedar tree over a spruce, your arborism isn’t welcome and this job isn’t for you.

The position earns up to $60.83 an hour and allows activists to undo environmental injustices disproportionately impacting “communities of color.” We’re supposed to pretend this is due to racism.

The Tree Equity movement is part of a tapestry of contrived social justice causes pursued by Progressive activists seeking hero status. It fits under the umbrella cause of “environmental racism.” This movement attempts to more evenly distribute trees to underserved communities. The lack of tree canopies and green space in black, Asian and Latino-majority communities is due to institutional racism, according to progressives.

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Why is Seattle obsessed with shoehorning equity into tree planting?

In Seattle, city leadership can’t merely plant more trees in areas where they’re lacking. They have to make a political point. Meanwhile, they push away qualified applicants.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with planting more trees and offering green space where little exists. This benefits communities, regardless of the race or ethnicity of the neighbors. It’s a worthwhile cause, even if it’s less important than addressing the homelessness and drug crisis crushing some Seattle neighborhoods.

But this reeks of unbearable virtue signaling. Indeed, as part of the position, as is the case for all city employees, the Tree Equity Initiative Manager “must play a role in ending institutional and structural racism,” as defined by the city of Seattle.

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A worthy cause buried in virtue signaling

The city of Seattle is obsessed with approaching everything through an activist lens. And it’s signaling to conservative-minded potential employees that you shouldn’t submit an application.

This strategy allows city leaders and staff to earn social currency for being part of a progressive cause-celebre. They dutifully put their progressive-minded commitments in press releases, blogs, or on their personal social media accounts so that their like-minded, woke echo chamber of friends can celebrate them as heroes. At the same time, it helps keep the “wrong kind” of applicant from the position. The city of Seattle does not want conservative staffers. They want like-minded ideologues, even if that conflicts with their supposed commitment to diversity.

When an initiative is more about signaling one’s commitment to an ideological cause, it’s destined to fail. And it may be why city, county and state projects take so long to complete. Rather than focus on the actual work, there’s precious time wasted signaling one’s politics so that they’re given credit. It’s ideological narcissism.

At the end of the day, this is a position where one oversees tree planting. It’s a job dressed up in ideologically-aligned titles. But it’s as silly as calling someone the Director of First Impressions when they’re just the front desk attendant.

A silly title for unserious activists

Despite the silly title, the job is a serious one.

The job posting says the Tree Equity Initiative Manager will manage a “$12M federal grant initiative to plan, prioritize, and coordinate activities” around planting trees around the city of Seattle. The job offers priority to the Beacon Hill and Chinatown-International District neighborhoods.

The role lasts for about five years and is housed in the Office of Sustainability and Environment. It’s tied to the Washington State Tree Equity Collaborative, which was introduced in May 2023 to “enhance urban forestry programs over the next three years, with a focus on increasing tree canopy equity and engaging cities, community organizations and stakeholders.”

But with the silly job title, the city of Seattle isn’t coming off very seriously. Why would a qualified, conservative applicant find this job appealing or accepting? The city of Seattle already has a reputation for hostility towards people who don’t think like them. For such an important position with serious responsibilities, the city should hope to attract the best candidates, not the one farthest to the Left.

Tree Equity in a job title is about attracting superficial activists to a job that isn’t glamourous, and won’t be all that exciting to someone who is better suited for holding a sign with a bumper sticker slogan, waving it at the headquarters of some big corporation.

Where is the funding coming from for the Seattle Tree Equity project?

The city of Seattle is expecting a $240 million budget deficit next year. But, thankfully, funding for this project comes from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service awarded $12.9 million to the City of Seattle in September 2023. The intent is to use the money “to plant and maintain trees where people live, learn, and play to combat extreme heat and climate change, improve access to nature, and support green careers for young people.” But there’s always a looming threat that the city maintain a position after the funding dries up.

One reason the City of Seattle faces such a significant budget deficit is that it relied on one-time COVID-related funds. Rather than accept the funding as temporary, Seattle leadership acted as if it would flow into the city coffers indefinitely. Could that happen with the Tree Equity position? If it’s deemed successful, it’s easy to see how the city justifies keeping it.

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Rantz: Tree Equity job lands you $60.83 an hour from city of Seattle