What is with the City forester cutting down more trees? Seventy-seven mature Eucalyptus trees to be exact. I don’t get it. Maybe we need Joan Baez, Julia Butterfly Hill and John Quigley to come sit in some of our trees before more are decimated. Do you remember the beautiful canopy of Ficus trees that fronted Neilson Way behind Main Street? About six years ago they were removed for additional parking (shades of Joni Mitchell: “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”). My mouth dropped when I saw those beautiful trees boxed up and moved to the airport, never to be seen again. That ultra green canopy has never been restored. Then they chopped down trees on Pico, with the promise that within fifteen years the newly planted trees will be beautiful. Then the City threatened whole neighborhood streets with Ficus removal because the City couldn’t get the watering right. That’s the attitude, instead of giving them deep watering, cut ‘em down. Ironic that while the City is going to cut down mature Eucalyptus one of their brethren was recently given landmark status.
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Santa Monica Police Chief Butts will be leaving us soon. He has taken a position with the larger Los Angeles World Airways. If he knew he was leaving why did he have to mess with our Blue and Whites before he resigned? He pressed the point to have them changed to Black and White despite no obvious push from residents. It is a legacy that will be felt for years to come. Of course the City Council virtually rubber-stamped his request. That move once again shows how the City acts contrary to the wishes of its residents.
There is talk that the LAX police will be merged with the LAPD so Butt’s ultimate position may change.
Butts has been a figurehead on the Santa Monica scene for years, showing up at all the appropriate “gala” affairs. He was a commanding figure. The City has had its share of shootings and gang-related activity, but on the whole, peace has primarily reigned and he has to receive some credit for that.
His department was criticized for using overqualified and expensive officers to help with traffic control during the building of the transit mall, but that is pretty much stock and trade for any police department where the main benefits go to the top dogs. The SMPD has grown considerably in the past decade, primarily because the tourism boom has generated extravagant additional efforts. Yes there is a cost to tourism and added police officers is one of them. To date, the Police Union is one of the more powerful in town and a must-have endorsement for any new Council wannabee.
In my previous life as a security systems contractor I visited the Santa Monica jail and was rather put off by the rough treatment a drunken homeless fellow was receiving. I hope and trust that type of behavior is pretty much behind us; it would be hard to imagine Chief Butts pushing a helpless drunk around. And now the department has their big, beautiful Public Safety Facility, the design of which is completely out of sync with our Moderne style City Hall.
During the 2000 Democratic Convention, when peaceful demonstrations were happening all over town, one could not help but notice SMPD officers in riot gear standing at side streets ready to quell any disturbance. I felt it was wholly unnecessary and a bit of overkill, yet my criticism melted later that same evening when I saw the Chief hanging out on his huge motorbike on the pier greeting visitors, perusing the scene and staying on top of it all. He smiled, said hello to all, let people climb on his bike with him and take photos and generally seemed like a rather likable fellow.
Years later, this paper called on Chief Butts when our papers were being routinely stolen from outdoor racks. He immediately dispatched officers to scout our locations until a suspect was found. His prompt response showed he cared about the business community and understood the importance of a free press. Despite any criticisms we may have had about the department or the money spent on the new Public Safety Facility, Butts responded as a true professional. As did his department.
I still prefer smaller substations in the community rather then a big police edifice, but Chief Butts brought a wholly human face to the SMPD. He was accessible and responsive to the community. I, for one, will miss him.