You don’t have to be a tree hugger to shed a few tears for the trees the City is destroying for sidewalks most homeowners don’t want nor need. While the entire Safe Route to School grant is under investigation for possible fraud by the Michigan Division of the Federal Highway Administration, the City couldn’t wait for final ruling before destroying trees. If the ruling is against the city, federal funds could be withdrawn.
At the September 19, 2017 city council meeting, Council member Mark Robertson stated the following during member comments at the end of the meeting. “Contrary to some people’s belief, this council does not make any decisions prior to a council meeting. That would be illegal, and I would know because I am on it. We don’t make decisions based on rumors and gossip. I just wanted to say that.” This is reminiscent of Mayor Migs Murray, who back in October 2013, made almost the identical statement. While following the letter of the law, there is a slippery moral slope that Murray’s council slid down just as Mayor O’Donnell’s is doing now. Gossip and speculation begin when the council lacks transparency but ends only when the truth finally surfaces as it always does.
Without the council holding a single public hearing prior to the Safe Routes to School grant request in 2014 or after major revisions in 2015, the sidewalks are being installed without a public input process documented with minutes accessible to the public. The lack of transparency in this process led to speculation that is now a reality. The truth is, the city council never intended to try to save beautiful mature trees or if they couldn’t save them, remove the trees and the roots in a responsible manner. Instead the city council is allowing the roots to be so severely damaged, the trees will die leaving shadeless sidewalks. But here’s the rub, some of these trees appear to be on private property while the roots are on the city’s easement. Council member Robertson can rest righteously assured that the City might be within it’s legal bounds to destroy the roots that rest on public property while the homeowners will be legally responsible for the expense of removing the dead trees. Legal, yes, moral, no.
Take a look at some of the trees the City is destroying.