Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At the barbershop

Gossip.  News.  Debates. 
Where do you go to talk?

The barbershop, the beauty parlour, the neighborhood pub...these are places you go to catch up on what's going on with your neighbors, people you've never met, and everything big and small that happens around town.  If you want to get the pulse of what the community, go get your hair cut.

What does the community thinks about the city's tree code?  Get yourself to a beauty shop and start the conversation and you'll find out.  People hate it.  I mean really hate it.  Those who are familiar with the tree removal application are incensed that the city tree removal application asks about every tree on your property - what kind it is, where it's located, and how big it is, even though you just want to cut down one tree.  They also require (unlimited) access to your property to check up on you.  These things tic people off.

For the average property owner, the city tree code is an infringement of their property rights.  Whose trees are they?! And whose yard?  It becomes a real insult when the city claims rights over trees one planted themselves, or are dead or obviously a safety issue.  I have not heard such a visceral dislike for any city regulation as the tree code, and today's discussion at the salon was no different.  In fact, one person begged that the subject be changed because it was so upsetting.

When a city or other government or institution has a rule that is disliked and the public knows is unfair and immoral, it is predictable that there will be a high incidence of law-breaking and a general lack of respect for government.  For years I have heard people talk about the ways they could kill a tree in order to remove it, or how they would remove it without asking for "permission" to do so. The only sticky part is the neighbor who takes it upon themselves to squeal to the city about unapproved tree cutting.  How many neighborhood disputes and feuds have been created because of the tree code?  Judging from my conversations, way too many!  It's a pity, and it makes life in Lake Oswego unnecessarily unpleasant.

For people who are fearful that, if given the chance, everyone will go out and cut down all of their trees for reasons they don't approve of, the rules seem fine, or maybe even too tame.  Would the city be denuded if the tree code was relaxed?  That is a stupid but popular belief - totally unfounded by fact.  At about 50% tree canopy cover, Lake Oswego has too many trees - many lots desperately need thinning to improve the health of the remaining trees and prevent forest fires.

This isn't a situation where property rights advocates are anti-trees - everyone loves their trees and many plant more trees than they remove.  It's not the trees that are the problem, it's that we have a suffocating nanny state that substitutes its judgement for ours about how to take care of our own property.

What do you think?  Tell your City Council.  Maybe you'll see one of them in a barber shop where you can talk.

If we desire respect for the law, we must first make laws that are respectable.
Louis D. Brandeis 

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