Just when I thought the wanton destruction of four valuable street trees by Daniel and Richard Gatti couldn't be more outrageous, it turns out I was wrong.
Because Michael Slater reported in a Salem Tree Advocates post on Facebook that the City of Salem's Public Works Director, Peter Fernandez, has admitted that he hasn't been requiring people who improperly remove street trees to pay for the full assessed value of the trees, as is required by a city ordinance, SRC 86.105(c).
l heartily agree both with Jim Scheppke's comment above, plus a post that Scheppke wrote on the Facebook page where Salem City Council goings-on are discussed.
lt sure does smack of favoritism. Richard Gatti has admitted that he knew he needed to get a permit before trimming the street trees on his property that borders Liberty and Superior streets. (See here and here.) Further, Gatti didn't use a licensed tree service, and he failed to tell the contractor how the trees should be trimmed.
So the Gatti brothers knowingly destroyed four street trees that could have a total value of tens of thousands of dollars. Yet Peter Fernandez is OK with not complying with the city ordinance, shown below, that requires Daniel and Richard Gatti to pay the full appraised value of the trees that were damaged, in addition to a fine. (Boldface added for emphasis.)
Costs of restoration. Persons violating this chapter, or a permit issued hereunder, shall be responsible for restoring damaged areas in conformance with a plan approved by the Director that provides for repair of any environmental or property damage and restoration of the site. Costs of restoration shall be not less than those determined equal to the monetary value of the regulated trees removed in violation of this chapter, or permit issued hereunder, as set forth in an appraisal acceptable to the Director and based upon applicable administrative rules. Each removal of a regulated tree in violation of this chapter shall result in a separate civil fine in addition to costs of restoration.
Sure, the City Council can indeed look into modifying this portion of the tree ordinance. But it can't roll back the clock and pretend that the ordinance didn't exist when the Gatti brothers decided to ignore it and top the four trees, which is one of the worst things that can be done to a tree.
Mangled Gatti tree on Liberty Street
City Manager Steve Powers needs to overrule Peter Fernandez' outrageous decision to not enforce the city's tree ordinance and let the Gatti brothers off the hook for their willful destruction of four valuable street trees.
This, of course, is the same Peter Fernandez who made a backroom deal with Ryan Allbritton, the U.S. Bank president, to destroy five large, beautiful, healthy trees on downtown's State Street for no good reason. I was so disturbed by that travesty, I wrote a report about it, "Outrage: the true story of Salem's U.S. Bank tree killings."
To my knowledge, Fernandez never was disciplined for the shoddy way he acted back in 2013. And here he is again, looking the other way while other well-known "pillars of the community" knowingly destroy street trees. Why Fernandez still has his position is beyond me, because he sure is doing a crappy job at it.