Drawing the Red Line

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by Marion Marks

Mobile, AL – The city cuts an historic cedar tree from a public park for a Trump rally backdrop, and citizens and the media denounce the action. The outcry appears to be quite partisan, as Trump supporters don’t see any issue with using a tree in this manner, “after all it’s only a tree and it’s a renewable resource.” Yet the logic defies any appreciation that Trump backers fought so hard to denounce Clinton for supporting. Just who’s tree is it anyway, and why would people get so upset about something so simple?

We need to be clear that trees, animals and people are all part of the balance of our lives. It’s not about any single tree. The case is about respect for those things that make our society, cities, states, America a civil society — It’s that thing that recognizes the “whim to please” or the “casual twitter” should not promote actions that are contrary to the long-term interests of society. And, if emailservers and emails as well as responsibility for actions are really important, how can you so easily pick and chose which really count? Is it, again, “to the victor goes the spoils?”

Just as healthcare, education and rule of law are important, the existence of a tree in a public park is important. So easily, too many people have blown this off as an insignificant event. Why now raise the cry?

Broadmoor Baptist Church raised the alarm for their neighbors when they claimed it would only be “a minor inconvenience for the citizens of the neighborhood” if they closed a street and created a parking lot between homes where they had bought and cleared adjacent lots. And, besides, the parking places between the homes where they had purchased and cleared the lots would only have cars in them a few times each week. The majority of citizen of Shreveport would never have noticed or been inconvenienced by the simple action if approved by the MPC or the City Council. But, because a large enough number of neighbors raised the issue of the sprawl and manner in which the church was attempting to bulldoze the residents, and the MPC and City Council was not in favor of such a move, the church withdrew their request.

It is the nature of strong politicians and power organizations to flex their muscles. It is the nature of power to seize greater power and strike down those who challenge them. Some who abuse their powers need to be called out and reigned in from abuse. This is the nature of the abuse in cutting down a single tree that should never have been considered as an ornament for a political rally.

The chief of staff to Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson issued a public apology Sunday for his responsibility in having a cedar tree cut down at Public Safety Memorial Park Friday and transported to Ladd-Peebles Stadium as a prop during President-elect Donald Trump’s rally on Saturday. The apology was the minimum the city’s administration owes. became “overzealous” in making sure “every detail was covered and the expectations” of Trump’s team were exceeded ahead of Saturday’s televised rally.

“I now know that there are citizens who are upset and offended that a tree from a city park was used as part of the decorations for the event,” Cooper said in a statement sent out to the local media. “I accept full responsibility for having this done. For this, I sincerely apologize. Going forward, I will be more sensitive to the spectrum of concerns regarding trees.”

Cooper had been charged with working with Trump’s advance team last week in preparation for the rally, which was the final one during Trump’s post-election “Thank You” tour. The president-elect spoke more than an hour before a large crowd at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and the large tree decorated with Christmas ornaments served as a back drop, blocking the stadium’s scoreboard.

Cooper said on Saturday that the city planned to “re-purpose” the tree for another use, but it’s unclear what that might be.

Blame was directed at the Stimpson administration as a flurry of phone calls were made to local newsrooms and government agencies in protest. Cowart Hospitality, the planners of the new Hilton Garden Inn hotel, were fined about $300 for not securing the proper permit to take down one of the trees.

The city has a tree commission, but it’s jurisdiction is to regulate trees in city right of ways and not private property. It’s unclear what kind of oversight the commission might have on trees within city parks.

Belles in Mobile

The following is Cooper’s full statement:

“Yesterday’s visit by President-Elect Trump to the City of Mobile was an incredible opportunity to showcase our City and offer a great event to those attending.

In preparing for this event, I worked closely with the advance team. In an effort to make sure every detail was covered and the expectations of the President-Elect’s team were exceeded, I became overzealous.

I now know there are citizens who are upset and offended that a tree from a City park was used as part of the decorations for the event. I accept full responsibility for having this done.

For this, I sincerely apologize. Going forward, I will be more sensitive to the spectrum of concerns regarding trees.”

– Colby Cooper, Chief of Staff, City of Mobile

This attitude is typical of the bulldozer “push it through and defend it later” mentality regularly shown by “overzealous pencil pushers.” They feel it’s always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, and it’s a habit, not a random act.

Just ask Vlad!

Sure, it’s just a tree, but escalating the issues is the next expected step in pushing the overreach of power and bullying those without resources to fight back is typical. Just as the expectation remains that a pipeline represents a national energy policy, so too the right of eminent domain will be extended to whatever the administration see as economically in their interests. Pull up your goulashes, get a heavy slicker and batten down the hatches, because the next term will be “What is good for big business is good for America!

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