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.