To the editor:
Certainly, Warren is rooted in self-government and republicanism. We elect members to the council to represent our needs. Additionally, the council develops policy and sometimes wisely, or not, enacts ordinances to benefit our community. The role of boards and commissions is to advise the council in this effort. Their role is not to adopt policy or reshape the government.
The most recent example, the tree ordinance, was developed over several years by the tree commission. The council collaborated with the commission by directing the solicitor to look over the proposed ordinance and place it on the agenda. This occurred despite the fact that not all council members supported the proposal. Nevertheless, the process and protocols used during the hearings followed those outlined in the Charter and the council’s rules of order. The tenure of the meeting was not divisive or unprofessional but marked by open debate and honest discernment.
Brandt Heckert’s false assertions that my statements were “…controversial and inflammatory in nature” are ludicrous. In fact, they are taken out of context and show the lack of empathy toward property owners. For example, I did refer to having to pay a fee for a permit as the next logical step to raise revenue in order to support the ordinance. I still maintain that the statute as unnecessary since no one has witnessed a rash of trees being cut down. I will continue to reaffirm my position, since public trees are already protected in town. Besides, I will not vote to burden property owners with an inconvenient permitting process.
The most concerning revelation is Mr. Heckert’s inability to see the forest for the trees. He alleges that that the commission was not a “power grab.” Admittedly, I did not use the kindest words but they ring true. The ordinance wildly expands the commission’s authority. It used the council’s power to enact an ordinance to, perhaps unknowingly, circumvent a charter change.
The charter states, “The Tree Commission shall inventory the trees of the Town and advise the Tree Warden on removal of trees and on appropriate trees to be planted on Town property.” Its mission is summed up in a single sentence; the commission’s proposal consisted of ten pages of new regulations. Its passage may have eventually forced the council to form a Department of Forestry and full time tree warden. As it stood, it infringed upon individual property rights, especially in those circumstances when a public tree’s drip line extended into an individual’s yard.
I disagree with many of Mr. Heckert’s conclusions about government. We must reach consensus on issues and we must approach issues with compromise. As the presiding officer I did just that by allowing the issue to be re-examined despite the fact that a previous council rejected the matter. Sadly, Mr. Heckert may hesitate to swing his axe at a significant tree but has no trouble cutting people off at the knees for voicing a significant, opposing viewpoint.
Mr. Stanley is president of the Warren Town Council.