It seems that once again, our City Council is callous and indifferent in its disregard of what is best for the residents of this city. They are far more interested in placating city staff and various special interests that they rely on to support their re-election. Even Bobby Shriver, who ran for office because an arrogant council was threatening severe penalties if he did not reduce the size of his hedges, has said he leaves the decisions to remove our lovely ficus trees to city staff because he doesn’t have their expertise… Only one councilmember, Kevin McKeown, had the courage to reject city staff’s proposal to destroy our trees.
The City Manager, Lamont Ewell, has impugned the citizens of this community by implying that the movement to Save The Trees is representative of a few misguided, misinformed, and misleading malcontents. If anyone is misleading the public, it is Ewell and the city staff who prepared the report to remove these lovely trees. First, they misled us by saying the trees are diseased. When that didn’t fly they changed their story and claimed the trees are structurally damaged, or rotten, a danger to the public, and must be removed.
Surely with over $8 million in cityscape grants these, so called, “damaged” trees can be rescued? If these mature ficus trees are hardy enough to transplant to a new location (with jet fuel raining on their canopy) they can survive rubber sidewalks to contain root systems, and structural reconfiguration to protect pedestrians?
Please do not make the same mistake made when the council committed arborcide against the beautiful ficus canopy that used to shade Pico Boulevard. The sorry trees that replaced them, and are supposedly adapted to the urban environment, are further evidence of misdirection and municipal incompetence.
Please Mr. Ewell, get a clue and listen to the vast majority of those who live, work, go to school, or own businesses in this city. If you really claim to look out for the public interest you will act responsibly and make a new plan. Please do not murder our precious ficus trees! In what way does that improve our beautiful shady downtown Santa Monica? Prune their branches, but please don’t amputate entire limbs, or turn our trees into wood pulp.
Santa Monica may be a city of diverse views, but we are generally united on this issue. The council and city staff attempted to push through this arbor Armageddon until the people rebelled and got a three-week injunction, thanks to pro bono attorney, Thomas Nitti.
Our rubber stamp City Council may go along with your staff’s proposal to replace our trees, but you should really allow more public input before repeating another Ficus Folly. I beg you to please allow (and heed) an independent arborist to provide pragmatic alternatives to your dogmatic policy of destruction, and please consider what is truly in the public interest.
Most of your staff are under civil service protection, and this council may obey your policy decisions (supposedly at their behest?) but certainly, we the people can replace the members of the council, all of whom were elected with the endorsement of city workers, and/or Santa Monica Renters Rights (SMRR) and various special interests.
Your backup (so-called compromise) plan, to only remove 23 trees, is not acceptable. If you had a bad heart would you expect to be terminated? No, you exercise, stop smoking, and change your diet. Are you absolutely certain that none of those trees can be rejuvenated with alternative care?
If you want a more lighted pedestrian environment, the obvious solution is to change the location of the lights, not get rid of the trees. Please don’t try to hornswoggle the public into believing that some of our mature trees can be relocated. That is misleading, as is your denial that damaged trees can be saved, and must be replaced with Chinese imports. If you will pardon the mixed metaphor, “We don’t need no Stinko Ginkgo!)
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I’m a booster of saving the trees on 4th Street for the following reasons:
1. Some shade is good living in the land of sunshine. Especially appreciated on hot days and on light rainy days, they protect walkers and those waiting for the bus. They look pretty with lights during the holidays.
2. The buildings behind the trees are mostly pretty ugly, so cutting the trees will expose unattractive architecture.
3. If some are worried about the roots bumping up the sidewalks, go to sections of Georgina and Euclid and they have managed to cut the roots and smooth the sidewalks. One group of trees is in front of an elementary school where there is lots of potential for tripping and skinned knees, but they worked it out and kept the trees.
4. If they’re worried about some mess – how about removing more graffiti and trash from along the 10 freeway in Santa Monica? That is worse than a few leaves and seeds that drop.
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“A Better Life Awaits…I Promise”
This past Saturday was the first annual Los Angeles Recovery Summit at LMU. I was originally drawn to go because the word on the streets was they were serving BBQ mutton sandwiches for lunch. Aint not’n like mutton I always say! That aside, this gathering was to be a very important cross-section of recovery professionals serving our communities. It’s a broad world within itself encompassing the services of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, addiction counselors, sober coaches, marriage/family counselors, grief specialists (notice I listed marriage and grief one after the other), and so many more. The spectrum of recovery far exceeds the scope of what most people think it to be, and with various different methodologies they each share the same common goal, “SOBRIETY.” For all you normal over-achievers who never had the pleasure to abuse drugs or alcohol, the term “sobriety” can be applied not just to alcohol, but to drugs and other addictions as well. It’s not about the term or poison-of-choice, it’s about the underlying multi-faceted malady that perpetuates this destructive lifestyle.
The struggles of alcoholism and addiction are said to impact the lives of approximately 60% to 70% of the public, either from personal experiences or by association through family, friends, coworkers, etc. Everyone is affected, not just the individual. Consequently, many perceive such people to be ignorant, lazy, or as without having a set of morals and ethics that would otherwise prevent them from such destructive behaviors. This isn’t so, quite the contrary, these folks are among the most intelligent, charismatic, and loving group of people among us. Once sober, their positive qualities typically shine, but of course every garden has a few weeds in it.
Volumes have been written on the world of alcoholism and addiction. This is the only disease known to man that centers in the brain and will literally tell the sufferer that he or she does not have a disease, thereby encouraging continued abuse. It’s a mental malady; it’s a physical malady; it’s a spiritual malady; anyone who says otherwise is either wrong, drunk, or the messiah. No wonder it takes a monumental assembly of specialists to counter the colossal powers of this disease, it strikes from all angles. And here’s the worst part: people don’t get blamed or in trouble when they have cancer, autism, diabetes, etc., but not so with addiction. Families are turned upside down, jobs lost, divorces, legal troubles, financial issues, death, illness, and so on, hence the need for so many various specialists in this field, both in the physical and emotional sense.
This summit was a true force in collaborative thought-sharing on all fronts. So many theories exist on this topic, and the purpose of such a gathering is to broaden the scope of applied knowledge into the dark abyss of alcoholism and addiction. People, I speak from personal experience when I say “getting sober and remaining sober is far and away the single greatest battle of my life!” Those of you who have read my past commentaries know quite well that I cherish the opportunity to write on life’s funnier moments and extract humor from even the sickest scenarios, but this is a life and death matter for millions of people around the world.
So why do I choose to write about this? For understanding, not sympathy. Awareness is the key. The words “just say no” might as well be “just say no, well…ok, but just this one time.” There is no equation, no absolute standard, no concrete format; each person is unique and has their own set of variations. Everything has to be taken into account regardless of the scenario. Recovery specialists follow formats and guidelines, but nothing is absolute or close to it. This year’s summit was a success in that people’s base of knowledge grew and new associations were made, and all for one common goal, “SOBRIETY!”
If you are an alcoholic, addict, gambler, food junkie, or whatever, there is help waiting. Southern California is the Mecca for recovery and if you need it you will find it right here. Anyone is more than welcome to email me with questions, or if help is needed, and I will point you in the right direction. I am not a certified specialist of any kind in the field of addiction, but I’ve certainly been around the block and have many resources to suggest if you need help.
Warm wishes to all!