Where's Fran? Let's see, if it's Thursday, Fran must be in Yosemite... or is it the Everglades?

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Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown
Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown

Where’s Fran? Let’s see, if it’s Thursday, Fran must be in Yosemite… or is it the Everglades?

Fran Mainella has been the director of the National Park Service since 2001, when George W brought her up from Florida, where she had been head of brother Jeb’s parks division. In her five-year tenure at NPS, she has presided over a shameful deterioration in the condition of our cherished system of parks, seashores, monuments, and other treasures. Budget shortfalls and a steadily growing backlog of postponed repairs have left our once-shining parks with such dark problems as closed trails, leaky lodges, reduced staff, shortened hours, and curtailed services.

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Not that Fran hasn’t been busy. In fact, she’s been on the move non-stop, setting a record as the most traveled parks director ever. Bush’s anti-government ideologues have been the ones really calling the shots at NPS, so, left out of the loop, Mainella literally has been traveling the outer loop, jaunting hither, thither, and yon to meet her ambitious goal of visiting every single one of the 390 units in America’s park system.

So many parks, so little time. Park staffers, constantly asked to do more with less, mock her road show as “Fran’s Hops and Stops.” In 2004, irate lawmakers scolded her for a travel budget that had mushroomed to some $44 million. But, Mainella, by now a junket junkie, just kept moving, even hiring a special “scheduling coordinator” to plan her travels “minute-by-minute.”

Finally, having flitted in and out of about 250 parks, Fran’s Last Ride is not long off. Like a road-weary tourist, she is resigning and plans to return to Florida, presumably with a trunk full of snapshot of all the fabulous places she’s visited.

This is Jim Hightower saying… Fran Mainella is a perfect symbol of Bush’s incompetent government, which substitutes frenetic motion for progress.

“Parks Director Needs to Hire a Travel Agent,” August 17, 2006.

I’m making moves!

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