The picture with this blog is one of my favorites because it's a bit of a metaphor for the struggle that exists between development and nature. Inevitably, one of us is "for" the tire and feels that the tree is in the way. And inevitably, one of us is "for" the tree and feels that that tire is in the way.
Tires and just stuff in general take up space and encroach on nature. And nature has to compromise because we have stuff and we have to put it somewhere. It's just the way it is. And the best we can hope for is to strike a balance.
It was not until this year - 2012 - that I began to see imbalances in our little city with respect to development and nature. And now we have a plan for a City Center that places a government building and an enormous parking deck directly into the precious little greenspace that exists at the City Center property.
On Monday evening this imbalance took on a voice as I witnessed a fascinating City Council meeting. Council was gracious enough to move the City Center/Trees item to the top of their agenda for the evening. Unfortunately for the City, they began by delivering a somewhat embarrassing defense of the proposed tree removal plan at the new City Center. The discussion reached a low point when the landscape architect began describing the city's illustrious plans to save the crape myrtle trees. Indeed, the city cares so much for these crape myrtles, she said, that it hopes to actually transplant them, yes ....transplant trees... Crape myrtle trees. This is actually too embarrassing to even make a comment on, so I won't. Then, in an effort to explain WHY so few trees will be saved at the new City Center, the city asked one of the owners of Downey Tree Company to describe just how unhealthy the existing trees actually are. Yes......Downey Tree Company....a tree removal company. They take trees down for a living, you know. Once this embarrassing beginning to the evening finally ended, the audience was rather worked up and began blurting questions - perhaps a bit unconventional since this was not a question and answer session. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to listen to the Mayor allow some questions and disallow others. For instance, the gentleman who asked why City Hall is now situated in the park in the CC2 plan was firmly shut down. This sort of treatment by the Mayor did provoke a jeerish mood in the audience - the AJC correctly reported this.
As for the citizen comments, they were really delightful to hear: educated and well articulated; for both sides I might add. Some people might say that D.C. Aiken did a bit of clawing in response to my own comments but I don't blame D.C. for getting defensive over what I said. D.C. promised to carry on the great green city initiatives that former Mayor Letchas started. And I basically told City Council that they've undone Mayor Letchas' legacy in a very short period of time by placing a parking lot and a city hall onto the ONLY 2 greenspaces at the entire City Center property.
The final comments were from Council members of course, and to their credit, we heard promises from almost every Council member (did Kennedy speak?) to WORK toward a solution, that we will indeed BE a green city, that they HEAR what we are saying about the trees and they will CONSIDER our suggestions.
I will finish by just mentioning 2 discordant notes that I kept hearing at Monday's meeting. First, this Council seems to slip rapidly from saying one minute, "We've waited long enough for this City Center to happen!" to "We're going to take our time, indeed, take as long as it takes to get this thing right." Well, which is it?
The 2nd discordant note I hear is this: Every time you mention the changes from the first plan to the second plan this Council hastens to say, "that 1st plan was not set in stone!" And yet, when pressed to consider changing the location and scale of the parking deck in order to preserve green space, this Council consistently states, "Sorry, that was already there in the first plan. You voted on it. Now you've got it." Come on, gentlemen. You can't have it both ways.
Things really are a little unbalanced here. I can't speak for those who "trust that you are doing the right thing" as a citizen commented on one of my blogs, but on behalf of the 400 + citizens who signed the petition to "Save the Specimen Trees at City Center" - we would like you to bring the balance back.