Once again, trees take center stage at council meeting
After 45 minutes of public comment and a nearly hour-long presentation by city staff, Tuesday’s special tree meeting forced the city council to delay their regular meeting until nearly 8 p.m.
Ultimately, the council approved revisions made to the city’s Tree Policies and Guideline Manual, but not without lengthy discussion.
City staff completed the revisions as requested by city council following a special tree workshop held last June. Highlights of the updated manual include increased use of water bags city-wide, street-tree designations and approval of an additional nearly $9,000 to the salary of the city’s current part-time arborist.
In addition to these changes, council also requested additional information on several topics, including the impact of the current drought on Claremont’s urban forest, options for watering city trees that are drought-stressed, options for pruning programs and the feasibility of establishing a 100 percent chemical-free maintenance program.
Community Services Director Kathleen Trepa conducted a thorough presentation on the tree manual updates, but the one topic that weighed heavily on the minds of council and those in the audience, was the use of pesticides throughout the city.
Citing information from an EPA report on the use of pesticides, Councilman Opanyi Nasiali spoke first.
“The jist of it is that there appears to be some bad science coming from the EPA,” said Mr. Nasiali. “The toxic strategy of protecting pesticides is the second phase of using bad science to cover up of the truth of the effects of pesticides. The mighty government consortium speaking with the presumed authority of science is skewing the fear of victims, telling them not to worry.”
Ms. Trepa addressed his concerns.
“There are a variety of reports and studies that have been done regarding chemical usage. We don’t have a way to validate any of the information that has been provided, beyond what is provided on government resources,” explained Ms. Trepa. “We continue to use these resources as a way to guide and monitor how other cities have actually accomplished certain programs and policies. That’s a balanced approach. I don’t have a way to validate whether or not the EPA has been complicit in that science or not.”
With the clock ticking and running dangerously close to the regularly scheduled 6:30 p.m. city council meeting, the city manager and council members elected to continue with public comment, with a four-minute time limit for each speaker.
Claremont resident Ellen Taylor explained to council that she hadn’t had an opportunity to read the updated tree manual in its entirety, but intended to address her concerns page-by-page with council.
With the four-minute public comment time limit imposed, City Manager Tony Ramos said he’d be happy to go over the remainder of her presentation at the conclusion of the meeting.
“I want to address these now,” Ms. Taylor said.
She continued her public comment, at which point, Mayor Joe Lyons reiterated that she had exceeded the time limit.
Various member of the Tree Action Group also addressed council, many sharing their concerns over the use of pesticides, some showing gratitude for the care and protection given to city trees.
Linda Heilpern spoke of her late husband Michael’s memorial tree and how it symbolizes cooperation and positive change in the community.
After nearly 160 minutes of tree talk and pesticide pondering, the city council finally approved the revisions to the Tree Policies and Guidelines Manual and directed city staff to enforce the municipal code requirement that property owners water city trees located in the public easement on their properties.
The council also directed city staff to continue implementing the existing hybrid-pruning program and allocated additional funding to increase the hours of a part-time arborist at a cost of $8,756 per year. This will allow for onsite monitoring of all pruning activities.
Staff will also incorporate integrated pest management language into the manual, serving as the basis for limiting chemical usage within city maintenance areas and for tree care.
For more information on the updated tree policies, visit the city’s website at www.ci.claremont.ca.