Us opponents of the senseless cutting-down of five beautiful Japanese Zelkova trees in downtown Salem are on a pretty good publicity roll:
A few days ago the Statesman Journal published online a guest opinion by Carole Smith and me, "US Bank tree removal decision was horribly flawed." Today the paper printed my letter to the editor, titling it "City was wrong to let US Bank cut down trees." Carole has submitted her own letter, which hopefully will be published soon.
(Comment away on the guest opinion and letter, especially if you think we've expressed ourselves brilliantly and are on the proper side of truth, justice, baby birds, and shade trees.)
But there's more publicizing to be done. This afternoon, while mowing the grass, my mind popped up the best idea of all.
This crazy US bank tree cutting drama needs to be featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart!
Freaking f#!%ing genius, Brian! I told myself, as I do so often -- yet usually with considerably less reason.
The story is a natural for The Daily Show. That's obvious. I just can't decide which member of their news team would be the best fit to come out to Salem and report on the delicious absurdities of our downtown drama.
I like John Oliver a lot. But his English accent could be distracting.
Jason Jones probably would be best. He could project a requisite blend of sarcasm and outrage. Humorously, of course. Or I could easily see Samantha Bee doing some killer interviews with the story's Cast of Characters.
We've got at least...
The five trees themselves. Three have been cut down. Two remain. The arc of the story depends on what happens with the last two (more about that below).
Baby birds. They are what saved the two trees from being killed in the first wave of chainsaw attacks. Interviews with local Audubon types in bird suits would be in order.
Crazed French chef. David Rosales would be pleased, I'm sure, to re-enact his screaming protest of the tree-killings inside the US Bank lobby.
Ambitious Public Works director. Peter Fernandez wants to spend $700 million or so on a Third Bridge that hardly anybody but the Chamber of Commerce and Realtor's Association wants. He approved the tree removals even though he was advised not to by City tree experts and its Shade Tree Committee.
Ambitious US Bank president. That is Ryan Allbritton who -- surprise! -- also is the incoming president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Tree hugging opponents. Ah, one would be me, an Oregon stereotype: gray haired/bearded senior citizen skateboarder, electric car owner, vegetarian, save the Earth'er. Another, my comrade opponent: Carole Smith, downtown businesswoman and general pain-in-the-butt to conservative City politicians.
Marvelous scenes in a The Daily Show investigative bit present themselves to my imagination. And I'm not even a professional. For sure our Salemia team -- David Jenkins, a screenwriter, and Mike Perron, a person hard to describe -- could come up with some great ideas here.
I'll just give a few examples that easily came to mind:
Interviewer: Mr. Allbritton, I understand that a French chef was arrested in your lobby for screaming in outrage about what a giant U.S. bank had done. If this is illegal, why isn't most of the American public behind bars?
Allbritton: [mute irritated look]
Interviewer: Mr. Fernandez, you are the Public Works director of an Oregon town that is proud of winning 37 consecutive Tree City USA awards. Your department received an application to cut down five beautiful healthy downtown trees. The City's tree experts, independent arborists, and members of the public all advised you to prune, rather than kill, the trees. So naturally you decided to save the trees, right?
Fernandez: No, I issued a decision to kill them.
Like I said, it's the ending of The Daily Show investigative bit that is in question here. This depends on whether US Bank and the City persist in cutting down the last two trees.
Speaking for the opponents, I'd much prefer to have a lighter-hearted positive ending.
Via this blog post, I now declare to US Bank that I am offering to devote some of my retired time, which could have gone to being a greeter at WalMart, to becoming a volunteer leaf raker for the downtown Salem US Bank branch.
I've heard from reliable sources (a term that makes me sound more like a real journalist than a blogger, assuming this is a step up) that US Bank wanted the trees removed because when they drop leaves in the fall, customers track them into the lobby.
Well, Mr. Allbritton, I'm your leaf-collecting man.
I live out in rural south Salem. We have some large oak trees around our house that shed more leaves than the remaining Zelkova trees at your bank do. I can handle leaf-picking-up duties for both our trees and your trees.
Glad to help.
Even though it looks to me like US Bancorp made over five billion dollars last year, I can understand why bank executives might not want to spend money on picking up leaves from some beautiful trees on a public street adjoining the Ladd & Bush downtown branch.
I'd do it for free, because this is the only remaining reason I can think of why US Bank would want to cut down the last two trees. Three of five have been removed, reducing any possible minor problems with them (such as sightlines to the building) by 60%.
Tree experts and the City's own urban forester say that pruning can resolve any other problems, such as branches being too close to the building. Liability issues associated with any future sidewalk problems that could be caused by roots isn't a concern; this was made clear in Fernandez' March 12 decision document.
All I ask -- and this is a "please" not a must -- is that I be able to wear a US Bank baseball cap while I pick up the leaves. This would show passers by that I'm someone officially associated with the bank, and just a crazy senior citizen skateboarder, not a crazy street person.
It'd be cool if the end of The Daily Show bit showed us all -- bank officials, City staff, opponents -- sitting down in Rosale's restaurant and sharing a "no hard feelings" toast together. Of course, there would have to be some humor here also.
How about if bank president Ryan Allbritton doesn't like the taste of the French wine and starts screaming at Rosales, almost turning over a table. Then stops himself just in time... with a grin. Hug by Rosales. "We're brothers, man."
The other possible ending? Not so heart-warming, if all five trees have been cut down. I'd rather not envision it. Let's be positive.
Save the last two trees, US Bank. You'd come out looking better in a The Daily Show segment. Also, in the eyes of the tree-loving public.
Write US Bank and tell them you'd like to see a happier ending to the tree story. Just three dead trees, not five.