Yesterday the U.S. Bank tree killing spree began in Salem, Oregon. Three of five large Japanese Zelkovas, which have beautified downtown Salem for about fifty years, were cut down for no good reason.
The other two trees are on the chopping block. Innocents, their only crime being that some U.S. Bank executive didn't like them, they await their turn to be changed from this...
I was disturbed about this two days ago when I wrote "Downtown trees destroyed: shame on U.S. Bank and City of Salem." That was before the trees were cut down.
Today I visited the scene of the crime and took some photos. Now I'm outraged.
As was David Rosales, owner and chef of one of Salem's best restaurants, La Capitale. He was arrested today for doing what I wanted to do when I saw the stumps and sawdust: go into U.S. Bank and yell at the employees, hoping that management would take notice.
I didn't have the guts. David did. I applaud him. Free David Rosales!
A downtown Salem business owner was arrested Friday after he reportedly screamed at U.S. Bank employees about the removal of downtown trees.
David Rosales, the owner of La Capitale and Bar and Andaluz, entered the Ladd and Bush branch at 302 State St. around 2:30 p.m., Salem Police Lt. Dave Okada said.
Employees told police that Rosales started screaming about the three Japanese Zelkovas the bank cut down on Thursday evening.
Here's what is deeply irritating about this whole thing: the city's Shade Tree Advisory Committee advised against removing the trees, and the city's Urban Forester said that the trees' roots could be pruned to avoid further damage to the sidewalk.
A few days ago my wife talked with a U.S. Bank manager who told her that the main reason the trees were going to be cut down was liability concerns. The sidewalk was dangerous for their elderly customers to navigate.
That, to put it bluntly, is bullshit.
I don't know why U.S. Bank wanted to cut down these beautiful trees, but it sure seems like tree roots weren't the reason. Again, the city's Shade Tree Advisory Committee said, "leave them."
Someone in city government overruled the tree experts. Hmmmm... wonder why?
Oh, could it be that the President-Elect of the Salem Chamber of Commerce happens to be Ryan Allbritton of U.S. Bank? The Statesman Journal tells us in a profile that he is the regional president, and would love to have lunch with... George W. Bush or John Maxwell (an evangelical Christian pastor/author).
Sure, I could be jumping to conclusions. I don't know Mr. Albritton.
But I strongly suspect that he was instrumental in approving the killing of these trees. And I also strongly suspect that given who he'd like to have lunch with, Mr. Albritton is not an avid environmentalist, nature worshipper, or devotee of the Gaia hypothesis.
Which is fine. Each to his own.
However, cutting down beautiful mature trees that grace a public street in downtown Salem for no good reason gets us out of "each to his own" territory.
The City of Salem has some explaining to do. I look forward to the City Manager telling us the details of how U.S. Bank's request to kill the trees was approved. From what I saw today, it sure wasn't because the sidewalk was being destroyed by roots.
Being 64, I guess I'm one of those old people the U.S. Bank manager my wife talked to was concerned about. From what he said, I figured that the sidewalk must be buckled, cracked, dangerous for us Social Security recipients to traverse.
The photo above shows the biggest crack I could find. Stepping on it, I neither felt my mother's back break, nor, in fact, felt the crack itself through my minimalist Teva soles. There are way larger cracks than this on many sidewalks and park walking trails in Salem.
So we're left with No Good Reason for the reason these trees are being cut down. Which is why Rosales engaged in his act of angry civil disobedience, and others left these messages beneath the remaining trees.
I couldn't make out all of the spray-painted words. But "no" leapt out at me. Seeing the stumps and the sawdust got me emotional, just as Rosales and other tree-killing protesters are. Looking up at the tree, which doesn't have long to live, almost made me cry.
I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, surrounded by majestic large oaks. Where my wife and I live now, in rural south Salem, I'm still surrounded by large oaks and other trees, some over 200 years old. We've planted many more on our property, well over a hundred.
I know the nature of beautiful, leafy, large trees: they're sometimes a pain, but always a greater pleasure.
I spend several weeks in the fall cursing the leaves that drop in ghastly profusion here, there, and everywhere, seemingly laser-guided by the Oak Tree Spirits to fall in places around our non-easy-care yard where they are most difficult to pick up.
But you know, U.S. Bank, I'm freaking 64 years old and I manage to cope with the comparatively minor headaches of the large trees on our property. I'm pretty sure a multi-billion dollar corporation could have found a way to do the same.
So I've got no sympathy for U.S. Bank.
From now on it will be known to me as Tree Killing Bank. I vow to never do business with this financial institution. It has demonstrated its disregard for local folks. U.S. Bank makes lots of money from Salem area residents, but pretty clearly it doesn't care about us.
Wherever you live, if you read this "blog post in a bottle" that I'm sending out into the currents of cyberspace, hoping it reaches some tree-loving customers of U.S. Bank, I urge you to strongly consider switching your account to another bank or credit union, preferably a local one.
U.S. Bank doesn't care.
It doesn't care about trees, and given the recent behavior of huge financial institutions I'm confident it doesn't care about other living beings which don't generate large profits for it.
For no good reason, U.S. Bank eagerly killed five trees in downtown Salem. You can send U.S. Bank a message by eagerly killing your account with them.
When public interest and business interest collide, it is STACked in business' favor. I find it hard to accept that trees the public wanted planted on the public right of way means we don't now have any standing. I am getting pissed off at living in a town where the idea of ambiance is the quality of a bottom line rather than something that would make you proud. Said differently, what is good for the Chamber is good for you.
Aristotle wrote that "What is common to the greatest number gets the least amount of care. Men pay most attention to what is their own; they care less for what is common; or at any rate they care for it only to the extent to which each is individually concerned. Even when there is no other cause for inattention, men are more prone to neglect their duty when they think that another is attending to it."
Until it is taken away.
Aristotle was addressing how we care more for our own infrastructure than we do that of the polis. But we increasingly live in a Judge Roy Bean world where, instead of "we'll give him a fair trial and then we'll hang him" we have forces that say the process if fair if you can vote, but you don't have any meaningful input into the process. You can vote for a council person, mayor, or commissioner (see the glory of our democracy) but they will listen to them rather than to you. Or, as Marcuse might have said it, you can have dozens of choices of toothpaste, but you can't have adequate dental care.
When you trust the process and then get stiffed, you do things like yell and scream in the lobby of Ladd and Bush, and get arrested, even though the mischief occurred when the Bank (and Chamber?) persuaded Council to override citizen input.
Posted by: Richard van Pelt | April 13, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Too bad. a true shame. I wonder; did U.S. Bank pay to have them removed or was it done by the city? The bank would have no liabilty regarding city trees. The city would be responsible for any repairs to the concrete or the building resulting from the roots. The bank was not the one cleaning the sidewalk or street of any tree-related mess. There must be more to this...
owner,Aerials Tree Service
Posted by: jason j ladue | April 13, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Nope I pulled my account from those dirt bags years ago.
Posted by: blah | April 13, 2013 at 05:29 PM
jason, yes, I think there is more to this. I'm getting some indications that the city didn't want to cut the trees down, but was forced to because US Bank took advantage of some loopholes in a city ordinance.
Am trying to learn more. It'd be nice if the Statesman Journal would do some investigative reporting on this. My suspicion is that in the end, US Bank is going to come out looking worse, and the City of Salem better.
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 13, 2013 at 11:17 PM
The City requested the State Street trees be removed in 2010 as part of the road/sidewalk repaving. The City's Urban Forester reported to the Shade Tree Committee the roots could be trimmed and the trees would not need removal. The Shade Tree Committee denied the City's request for removal
In July 2012, US Bank requested permission to remove the 5 State Street Trees. Again the Shade Tree Committee denied their request.
In Jan 2013, US Bank again requested the 5 State Street trees be removed. The Shade Tree Committee asked for public input. Several people testified, 5 emails were entered into testimony, along with a petition signed by 22 downtown employees and business owners, and the CAN-DO Neighborhood Association- asking for the trees to remain. The Shade Tree Committee, again, denied US Bank's request.
US Bank "verbally appealed" the decision to the City's Director of Public Works. A decision was finalized on March 13, which went into effect on March 19th, and a cutting permit was issued. US Bank is paying the full cost of removing the trees, stumps and planting replacement trees.
The City did not contact the people, who testified at the last Shade Tree Committee, that the decision had been overturned until Friday, April 5.
Before you blame all businesses in Salem (for getting what they want at the expense of citizens), please focus in. The businesses getting what they want are the business elite in the Salem Chamber of Commerce. Yes, Ryan Allbritton is incoming President of the Salem Chamber.
Just as important, where are our city councilors? They are elected to represent us - the citizens. They were contacted and chose to take no action. Several of our City Councilors were voted into their council seats by public support of the Chamber Board and by the voting membership of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. The other councilors know, to keep their seats, they need to play along with the Chamber.
This is very bad for Salem as a community. It is time to take a stand. Remove your money from US Bank and ask US Bank to transfer Ryan Allbritten to another branch - give us a bank manager with a better moral compass - and greater allegiance to US Bank's Code of Ethics, it's customers and our community.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
To place a complaint about Ryan Allbritten's violations of US Banks Ethics, visit: www2.usbank.com/cgi_cfm/about/ethics/ethics_feedback.cfm%20
Be sure to read the "Code of Ethics & Business Conduct" so you can quote the ethics violations Mr Allbritten has committed.
If you want to contact your city council, they can all be reached at this email address: CityCouncil.CityofSalem.net Please request the City Council re-write SRC 86 (Trees and Shubs Ordinance) so this will never happen again!
Posted by: Cherry City Blogger | April 14, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Nobody forced the Public Works Director's hand. There is nothing in SRC 86 that addresses existing trees in front of historic buildings. It only talks about planting new ones. This is one of many situations where city staff have some discretion but over and over again they favor more asphalt and concrete, and less trees and livablilty.
Posted by: Curt | April 14, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Im sure it was some poor tellers decision to cut those trees down. Probably makes 9 bucks an hour and she has to put up with that turd. Anyone who has half a brain knows no one in that branch made that decision. There used to be trees where his restaurant is. Ill pop in later and yell at a dishwasher.
Posted by: jerry | April 16, 2013 at 02:27 PM