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Arborist on a Tear


Fear not al-Qaeda or the Taliban—the enemy is within! The Department of Parks and Recreation, headed by Tim Downey and his commandos of self-righteous tree police, are on the lookout for all those who have their trees pruned without the department’s specifications. This is of course done under the guise of, “We want our city to be beautiful.”

Therefore anyone in the city can receive a citation if they prune a tree on their own property in a way that does not meet his approval.

According to Downey, we peasants don’t have the artistic ability to judge what is attractive in our own front yards. So his tree police have been sent forth to find and give citations to we, the lowly uneducated homeowners. His tree police have included this factor: If you tree is not pruned in its traditional shape, you get a citation.

All olives, ash trees, oaks, etc. must look the same. Any variation to their traditional shape in his subjective view is a violation and citation that can be up to $5,000.

According to Downey:

- No more creative pruning permitted.

- No more reducing the size of your tree.

- No more lifting the skirt of the tree.

- No more reducing your tree to recover your lost view.

- No more removing a dead tree without a permit.

- No pruning off more than 25 percent of your tree.

Who decides how much of the 25 percent is removed? It is decided by the magic wand of Mr. Downy, who is now the artistic director of your trees. How he arrives at the 25 percent measurement, he will not tell me.

It now falls within their power to make you get a permit, or a citation, for any work in your front or back yard. The permit may take weeks to arrive, as they have a staff of two people who will come to your home and tell you if you can prune your tree. Then tell you you must go before a board of know-nothing bureaucrats that place you in the hands of a czar of dubious skills and taste. What they know about trees you can place on your dashboard next to the head-shaking poodle.

One thing they agree on on is this: “Bigger fines for the public”—who knew nothing about this planned ambush on their property rights.

The city forester, Mr. Downey, is a zealot of the first magnitude. He is the one who has ordered the ficus trees to be pruned into lollipop shapes on Milpas, Carrillo, and State Streets. Need I say more?All disfigured, and very liable to fall over in a wind. (Of course, two already went to the woodpile weeks ago, [one] falling on the car wash canopy as I had predicted it would.) He is in charge of making the aesthetic decisions for the stupid artless homeowners of this city, who obviously have no taste regarding how to keep their trees beautiful and safe, unless Mr. Tim Downey, the creator and czar of “The Lollipop Cut” gives his approval.

I have stood before Parks and Rec many times to try and curb this overzealous tree police action against the public, to no avail. And then I was given a citation by Mr. Downey for pruning a tree he claimed I had “destroyed”: the tree now standing on the corner of Calle Crespis s and State Street, big, beautiful, and healthy. For easy identification, there is a yellow ribbon around it. His citation against me was dismissed by the court.

I have personally asked many city officials if they knew Parks and Rec had these police powers. Not one of them knew of this outrage. If city officials are unaware of this attack, what is the private citizen going to know? I have asked Parks and Rec to let the public know about the secret tree police, but nothing is ever done, and there’s a good reason: If the public actually knew their rights were trashed this way, there would be an uprising of anger and resentment to stop this invasion of their rights; to maintain their property in a manner that suits them. “If the city wants to tell me how to prune my trees, then let them pay for it!” should be the battle cry. It’s time for the public to stop acting like sheep being led to the slaughter.

Parks and Rec has more than enough to handle with the city trees, and they do a lousy job of that at best. But the city forester is suffering from hubris and wants the public to bend to his will even as he neglects hundreds of city trees that are in desperate condition. I would venture to say there are at least 100 trees on our city streets that are now dead or dying and need immediate attention. But nothing is being done about it. When I asked him what standards he was following, since he is holding the public to such a high standard, he responded by saying he did not have to follow any rules or standards when he works on city trees.

This article makes me look like I’m just a crank and complainer; I don’t care. What do I want to make me happy? First, I want the public to be made aware they are under attack and they can fight back if they choose to. If attacked by the city, call me and I will give you as much help and advice as I can. I only want to stop this ridiculous law that says you must prune your tree only in a traditional shape. There are a thousand ways an olive or an oak tree can look in nature. This fascistic behavior must be stopped. I hereby challenge any of the Parks and Rec board to a debate on their tree-care methods and the way they have treated the public. I know they will not take me up on this, as they fear being exposed as power-crazed frauds.

I’m Gene Tyburn, certified arborist for 35 years. I hold a BFA from Carnegie Mellon, and have traveled to England, Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Egypt, and Russia to study tree care methods.

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