Can the city listen?

A city worker cuts a felled tree into smaller sections along Collingwood Boulevard.
A city worker cuts a felled tree into smaller sections along Collingwood Boulevard.

Toledo's tree huggers finally got their day before City Council. Former mayor Carty Finkbeiner joined a dozen other property owners at a council committee meeting last week to urge Mayor Mike Bell’s administration to reconsider its tree removal policy.

The policy is pretty much this: When a street needs work, the trees come down, wholesale. Two streets have been especially hard hit by the policy: Collingwood Boulevard in the Old West End and Cherrylawn Drive in South Toledo.

Residents say their streets were beautiful, but now are ugly. They were shaded, but now look like parking lots.

“Let’s make every effort, as was done on Townley [Road] and Burroughs [Drive], to save those trees,” Mr. Finkbeiner told council members. Other witnesses spoke more passionately.

David Neuendorff, of Scottwood Avenue, said that property values on his street have dropped because of the tree removal. Bill Coine, of Cherrylawn Drive, said: “It took 50 years for the tree in front of my house to grow. It took 56 seconds to cut it down.”

Alas, nobody seemed to think this airing of views would change anything. No one in authority in the city said: You know what? We need to look at this. Maybe we need a more nuanced, balanced policy. Maybe we have been tone deaf.

A mark of good public administration is the ability to recognize more than one need at a time. Surely fixing streets is not incompatible with saving trees. A real question is whether this administration is capable of listening to its constituents and adapting its policies.

Another question: Can city elected officials demand that the administration be accountable, even a little flexible? This seems not to occur to much of the council. Only Councilman Mike Craig wondered aloud at a “tree city” now engaged in what he called “deforestation.”