Let the revolution begin. US Bank and the City of Salem need to be fought -- intensely, for as long as it takes to restore virtue to a city that is giving away its soul to big business and clueless bureaucrats.
A few hours ago somebody sent me this photo of US Bank killing one of the remaining two trees in front of the State Street building today.
This is how those two trees looked not long ago. They got a temporary chain saw reprieve because of migrating birds nesting in their branches.
There was no good reason to remove any of the five trees. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I know this because I'm in possession of a thick stack of documents I got from the City of Salem after filing a public records request.
For which I was charged $350.
Because Peter Fernandez, the Public Works Director who gave Ryan Allbritton (US Bank regional president) the go-ahead to kill the trees, didn't consider that it was in the public interest for citizens to know how and why the City of Salem approved removing five beautiful, healthy trees from downtown Salem's historic district -- even though the City's Shade Tree Advisory Committee said three times, "prune, don't remove."
Well, Mr. Fernandez and Mr. Allbritton, you're about to find out what happens when a member of the public is outraged about his or her interests being stomped on.
You've pushed me over an edge that I hoped I'd be able to stay on the other side off.
Numerous times I've told you, "US Bank and the City of Salem can salvage some good will by letting the last two trees stay; since there was no good reason to kill the first three trees, there is even less of no good reason to remove the remaining two."
But you obviously don't care about good will, doing the right thing, compromising, or engaging in a reasonable discussion with ordinary citizens.
You two feel like the support of big businesses, the Salem Chamber of Commerce, and a conservative-leaning majority on the City Council give you the right to do whatever the hell you feel like doing -- public interest and facts be damned.
OK. You've made your choice. You want a war, you've got a war.
For sure, with me. I'm an Army of One.
But so is everyone else; you guys might be surprised by how powerful all these Armies of One are when added up -- especially given the power of social networking and other Internet weapons these days.
When I picked up my public records request about the US Bank tree removal decision, I was given more than I asked for. Thank you for that, City of Salem. US Bank and City of Salem officials, I know what you've done, and why you did it. And I'm going to tell the world.
If this sounds ominous and threatening, great! That's exactly how I want to sound.
Killing those last two trees crossed an emotional line for me. I'm not going to try to describe why, mostly because I don't really know why.
I don't need a why to justify how I feel. "Why's" only are necessary when giant corporations like US Bank and big government agencies like the City of Salem take actions that affect the public interest.
That's what is lacking here: good reasons. I have them; US Bank and the City of Salem don't. So I and the other people who are so upset with the US Bank tree killings, along with other unjustified actions by City officals, are the Good Guys in this drama.
You know what? The Good Guys usually win.
Not easily. Not until after fighting a lot of battles. But in the end. Because truth almost always wins out. It's that powerful. What I'm going to do is learn and speak the truth.
As loudly, as often, as widespread, as engergetically as I can.
US Bank, I promised you this in several emails. Cut down the last two trees, and this story goes national. No more holding back. I'm going to do my best to let every current and potential US Bank customer in the world know that US Bancorp doesn't give a crap about beautiful healthy trees or baby birds.
Let's see who wins this P.R. battle: a giant multi-national bank with vast staff, money, and other resources, or a solitary senior citizen blogger who is outraged about what US Bank and the City of Salem have done to those five Japanese Zelkova trees.
I bet on me.
Another person just sent me this photo of the new and unimproved look of US Bank. I moved to Salem in 1977. My daughter was five. She grew up with those Zelkova trees. I've loved seeing them every time I drove past the bank. Now they're all gone.
US Bank and City of Salem, you are heartless.
Scroll down to the previous post on this blog. Read a marvelous poem by Mary Oliver. It's called "Extending the Airport Runway."
It could be called "Cutting Down the US Bank Trees." Or "Building a Third Bridge." Or "Installing Parking Meters in Downtown Salem." Read it, City and US Bank officials. Oliver wrote it for you, people who don't see what they should be seeing, because their vision is blocked by political shenanigans, money-making schemes, and a lust for power.
My goal is to make today, June 23, 2013, the beginning of the end of a City That Doesn't Care About The Right Things.
Respect for the truth
Public involvement (genuine variety, not "thank you for your testimony" variety)
I'll end this post as I began it.
Let the revolution begin.
Go get 'em Brian. Can't wait to hear what is in those emails!
Posted by: Jim Scheppke | June 24, 2013 at 10:29 AM
Jim, the public records include emails and other documents. They don't paint a pretty picture of how the Public Works Department goes about its business, that's for sure.
Of course, that won't be a surprise to you -- with your Third Bridge involvement.
I'm going to analyze the records systematically. Probably I'll write separate blog posts on different aspects of the US Bank tree killing debacle, using the documents to flesh out what was already known about how poorly this issue was handled by the City of Salem.
Then I'll aggregate those findings into a summary report of sorts to the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, and Shade Tree committee. If we truly do have "public servants" at work, they will be interested in how to prevent the public interest from being trashed like it was in the US Bank tree removal decision.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | June 24, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Wow, that corner really looks hard and horrible compared to what it was with those trees. Why? I never understand why people want to do this.
Posted by: Amy Young-Leith | June 24, 2013 at 08:25 PM
To be mayor one needs the endorsement and financing of the Chamber of Commerce.
Did unofficial mayoral guidance play a role in the removal of these trees?
Posted by: Royal Evan | June 24, 2013 at 11:44 PM
I drove past the bank yesterday morning giving my mom a ride to the BofA. We couldn't believe how stark and bare it looks now. This is an outrage...as a Downtown State St business owner I can't believe I wasn't notified of this huge change and did not have the opportunity to at least vote on the decision. How about a small hearing for business owners and the public to express their concerns or ask questions about a big decision like this??? Can I have the City of Salem cut down the tree in front of my building if wanted? Not that I want to but think about what it would be like if that were the case....well, looks like it is the case. Maybe there's a minimum annual gross income you need before the city jumps at your command. People! Speak out about this! Be vocal! We can't just let those 5 trees be forgotten or this is gonna happen again...maybe not trees. Could be a park next time. Hey people...not all business owners are in the same side!! This is BULLSH*T!!
217 State St
Salem, OR 97301
Posted by: Jim Normandy | June 25, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Jim, man, I like your style. And your outrage.
Don't worry, I'm not going to let those trees be forgotten. My mission, and I'm going to accept it, is to publicize how US Bancorp kills trees and destroys bird habitat for no good reason.
I'm about to email the three US Bank executives I've been communicating with about this issue (one-way communication, actually; they never respond). I want to give them one last chance to offer up One Good Reason why they wanted to remove the five large, healthy, beautiful trees.
If they don't reply, I'll tell them that this will be interpreted as meaning "We don't have a reason." If you, or anybody else, wants to tell them how you feel about US Bank killing the five trees for no good reason, here's their email addresses:
Posted by: Brian Hines | June 25, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Did you get the revolution started yet?
Posted by: mama zubi | February 26, 2014 at 02:44 PM
mama zubi, I sure hope so. It feels like it, though I don't take responsibility for what's been happening in Salem since I wrote this post. Lots of people are fed up with the B.S. at City Hall.
An attempt to unilaterally install parking meters in the downtown district was met with an initiative petition signed by 9,000 people. That put an end to the parking meter nonsense.
Resistance to an unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for third bridge across the Willamette has been fierce. This waste of taxpayer money is going nowhere fast. It won't be dead until it is, but things don't look good for this boondoggle.
Citizens rose up against an attempt to take over part of Riverfront Park for a private access road to an apartment complex. That No Way! led to a Better Way -- a revised development plan that is much better.
Currently the City of Salem wants to spend $80-90 million on a new police facility and Civic Center renovations that can be built for tens of millions less. So far the Mayor and other City leaders aren't paying attention to the Better Way. But if they don't, and soon, their big bucks bond measure will go down to a resounding defeat.
So, yes, the revolution here in Salem is going well. Now we just need to vote out the palace guard.
Posted by: Brian Hines | February 26, 2014 at 07:31 PM