Readers’ comments: March 10, 2023
Kudos to the Courier for its storm, Whiteley coverage
I want to raise a salute to the Courier for its outstanding edition this week with the coverage of the snowstorm in Mount Baldy, especially the video, which harkens to Martin Weinberger’s award-winning photojournalism some years ago. In addition, there was CBS News’ recognition of editor Mick Rhodes’ coverage of the heartwarming story about Cash Whiteley.
In these days when we hear a lot of moaning nationally about the loss of local news coverage, the Courier stands as an outstanding example of what can be done.
Additionally, I would like to suggest that you have a story detailing how those pictures, especially the video, were taken.
Kudos to Giffords, Courier
Kudos to the Courier for its excellent interview last week with Gabby Giffords [“Gabby Giffords returns to Scripps for documentary screening, discussion,” March 3] and to Scripps College and their public events program for bringing alumna Gabby Gifford’s back to campus. Her documentary and the subsequent panel discussion, featuring Gabby, were incredibly inspiring, moving, and motivating for everyone in the audience. What she has overcome after a devastating brain injury is nothing short of remarkable, and she continues to fight the good fight every day around the country. Her message to women and all young people to be strong, courageous, and to move forward and fight for what they believe in despite the obstacles couldn’t come from a more convincing role model, or at a more critical time in this country. She made me, and many others in the audience, very proud to be Scripps alumnae!
In support of Leano and his State Assembly campaign
Sunday morning I awoke to the buzz of my smartphone, and there it was — a video from Jed announcing his candidacy for the California State Assembly. I felt joy and pride as I learned that Claremont’s champion of justice and progress was taking his fight to the next level.
My mind drifted back to when we first met on the Claremont Community and Human Services Commission in 2016. Jed left a first impression like no other. He was intelligent, articulate, charismatic, and deeply committed to social justice. I knew that Jed was the ideal candidate for Claremont City Council and began encouraging him to run the first day we met.
Jed proved me right.
After his election to City Council, Jed delivered on every single campaign promise he made. He has been a staunch advocate for addressing homelessness and building affordable housing and remained unwavering in his goals despite fierce political opposition. Jed is not only unafraid of addressing controversial issues, rather, he has made that his calling card. He led our city through the pandemic, advocating for everyone from renters to businesses, and was on the streets checking on residents and looking for solutions after a once-in-a-lifetime windstorm. Jed has proven himself to be someone who can work toward his goals and also respond to the unforeseeable.
For the first time in the lives of most of us, we will have the honor of seeing a Claremonter serve in the California State Assembly. What an opportunity for our small town to have a real voice in Sacramento! Our state assembly member won’t just be someone we know. He will be one of us, working for us. This is a special moment for our great city.
Asymptomatic false Covid positives worse than reported
In her heartfelt letter to the Courier, [“Scripps medical decisions made absent evidence,” February 24] Ms. Julie Garel stated (in reference to her daughter): “Because she had neither symptoms nor any known exposures, we suspected the test was wrong. Several rapid tests and a second PCR test that day confirmed her result was one of the less than one percent of PCR tests to falsely register positive. Mistakes happen. We learn from them — a fundamental tenet of academic research.”
The performance of PCR tests in this situation is much worse than described. When infection prevalence is low, a test will “falsely register positive” more often than not in asymptomatic individuals with no known exposures. For this reason, most other countries now only test people with symptoms compatible with Covid.
There is a helpful tool online that illustrates this graphically at bmj.com by searching “interpreting a lateral flow.”
Testing has its proper place, but if deployed indiscriminately, it will cause many students to be unnecessarily quarantined. Hopefully, the administration at Scripps can learn from this unfortunate episode.
Policies regarding isolation, vaccination, masking, and testing should be evidence-based. Too often, our tightly held beliefs about this virus and its origin reflect political tribalism rather than the latest scientific knowledge.
John J. McDermott III, M.D.
Climate modeling needed in tree plan
At last week’s Claremont Community and Human Services Commission meeting, a proposed tree mitigation plan was pulled for further evaluation which I think was a very wise decision. As part of the re-evaluation process, I would like to strongly encourage the city, the commission, and the tree committee to utilize climate modeling forecasts for our area in their planning process. It concerns me that trees which may be sufficiently drought and heat tolerant for the current environment may not be viable in a decade or more.
I also think it will be very important to increase community input and feedback for this plan since residents with city trees on their property will have a greater level of responsibility and possible increase in their water costs for ensuring these trees will have enough water at the right time and in the right amount in order for them to thrive. Education of residents on how to do this will also be key.
No doubt our trees are an incredible resource, and we need to help ensure their health by planning based on what our environment and water availability will look like in several decades to come. Including climate model forecasts in this planning process I think is a wise decision.
More dialogue needed on tree removal proposal
I would like to respectfully add my voice to the many community members who became alarmed after learning of a proposal to remove nearly 1,800 mature, mostly healthy, trees over a period potentially as brief as five years [“Plan to remove thousands of trees a surprise in the ‘city of trees,” March 7]. I do want to thank the Claremont Community and Human Services Commission for accepting staff recommendation to pull the March 1, 2023 agenda item.
There are many valid reasons for questioning such a massive destruction of our urban forest — GHG sequestration, heat island effect, vetting adequacy — but I write, rather, to remind our community of a similar action proposed 15 years ago, action that spurred community volunteers to create the informal Tree Action Group.
Key actions that grew out of this community/governance/staff collaboration were:
- Secured the immediate cessation of a wholesale “mitigation” and established a working relationship between city staff, the community services commission, and our respected local arborist.
- Renovation of the tree policies guidelines, a process which took nearly 1-1/2 years, and which strengthened oversight and transparency regarding the removal of any city tree asset.
- Established the principle that societal and environmental benefits of each tree should be measured and valued carefully prior to any removal. That policy has served our community well for more than a decade.
All policies and laws have potential for change; I would be the last person to suggest otherwise. However, designs for any such change should be clearly and concisely spelled out. I do have great faith in our community, not simply because of one “side” or the other, but in our ability to dialogue. I, and numerous others, remain ready to help in discussions that lead us, hopefully and once again, to a collaborative solution.
Alternatives to tree removal exist
A concerned Claremont resident asked me to voluntarily review and comment on the city’s proposed tree plan windstorm mitigation tree plan and mitigation.
I find that the plan is critically flawed, in methodology and scope, absent alternatives to needless removals.
My credentials include a Ph.D. in plant pathology, Cornell University; emeritus professor Cal Poly Pomona; I have taught arboriculture and urban forestry; am an International Society of Arboriculture qualified certified arborist/tree risk assessment; hold a Society of American Foresters Urban Forestry Certification; and am a consultant to many cities, including Claremont.
Targeted for mitigation/removal are three species: stone pine, red ironbark eucalyptus, and Canary Island pine. The 24% stone pines that failed in the storm justify particular consideration by species, but the 5% loss of red ironbark eucalyptus and 2.3% loss of Canary Island pines do not.
The losses may be unusually high for a single wind event, but as noted in the report, the intensity of the 2022 windstorm was unprecedented.
The proposed plan is less about mitigation of the named species than on mitigation of curbs and sidewalks (infrastructure) damaged by tree roots. Where trees have damaged infrastructure, removal is the only proposed solution.
The plan fails to see trees as essential infrastructure offering stormwater mitigation, shading, cooling, carbon sequestration, increased property values, wildlife habitat, and beauty.
Alternatives to removal exist. Many cities have employed practices used to preserve trees where possible.
For example, the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Tree and Sidewalks Operation Plan, recommended to me by Larry Costello, retired U.C. cooperative extension adviser for the University of California and co-author of “Reducing Infrastructure Damage by Tree Roots: A Compendium of Strategies.”
Similar efforts to preserve trees, where possible, include Palo Alto and Sacramento. Such practices include rubberized sidewalks, diamond plates, and meandering sidewalks to provide more room for roots.
Readers’ comments: February 24, 2023