To the editor:
Last week’s Town Council meeting, during which the voluntary tree ordinance was defeated by a 3-2 vote, was hardly a profile in courage for Town Council Vice President David Frerichs. A farmer and self-proclaimed conservationist who served for 12 years on the Warren Conservation Commission, Mr. Frerichs backpedaled and helped kill an ordinance that would have furthered the values he claims to hold dear.
At September’s town council meeting, Mr. Frerichs was the decisive third vote allowing the tree ordinance to advance to a crucial second reading. However, this month he flip-flopped and succumbed to what must have been intense pressure from colleagues. Ironically, at the latest town council meeting his was the deciding vote to kill the ordinance, a proposed voluntary designation to help the town protect trees in Warren. Mr. Frerichs says he deeply cares about these assets in our community, leaving one to wonder what has occurred in the last month to make him no longer care.
In what was at best weak rationale, Mr. Frerichs read prepared remarks stating “it sounds like we’re creating a forestry division,” and “I think it would be problematic if someone who wasn’t in the town circle was head of the tree warden spot.” It’s a stretch in even the most extreme of circumstances to describe the proposal as a forestry division. Furthermore, why is it such a problem if a potential tree warden isn’t in the “town circle”? This sounds to me like more of an old town politics concern as opposed to a legitimate issue.
I was surprised with Mr. Frerichs’ performance, because in prior meetings he supported the ordinance and was the key vote in allowing it to advance. This raises an interesting question: Did Mr. Frerichs take easy votes to appease people, with the intent of ultimately killing the ordinance?
At the least, Mr. Frerichs owes the tree commission and people of Warren an explanation. Why, if he had these deep-seated concerns, did he vote to move the ordinance to a second reading? Why didn’t he make clear his specific objections and offer suggestions in September that would make the ordinance something he could support. He repeatedly said on the record that he cares about trees and their protection. So what, or who, happened between September and October?
Warren needs a town council that is decisive, progressive and non-partisan. Mr. Frerichs’ actions on this matter did not reflect these ideals.