GRANOLAPARK: Arborist resigns, unsafe roads, youth

Joe Edgell at an October 2016 city council meeting, shortly after a bike accident. Photo by Bill Brown.

IMAGE: Safe Roadways Committee chair Joe Edgell finds humor in the situation at the Oct. 5 city council meeting. Photo by Bill Brown


Dear Readers,

City arborist Todd Bolton resigned Friday, Sept. 30. He left the same day, the city manager announced at this week’s city council meeting.

It’s fair to assume there was something behind the abrupt departure, but she did not elaborate. The job of city arborist is to enforce the city’s tree ordinances. The ordinances tend to be prized by environmentalists, but despised by the people who get caught up in them. So, it is a stressful, politically fraught job.

For example, there was a furor over the last two weeks about the arborist issuing PEPCO permits to take down 25 trees to clear power lines. Even though that’s what the ordinances say he’s supposed to do, and even though PEPCO only goes through city channels out of courtesy – and exceeds the terms of the tree-trimming Memorandum of Understanding between them and the city – he got a verbal trimming, himself.

By the way, city manger Suzanne Ludlow reported that city staff did a field check of those 25 trees. Four of them looked sound, the rest looked like they had serious problems and were in danger of falling down if they weren’t taken down first.


The council dais had new, warmer lighting for its High Definition debut on cable television. Photo by Bill Brown.


Through his pain Safe Roadways Committee chair Joe Edgell sees the ironic humor in his two accidents. The first was on his skateboard – actually OFF his skateboard – on his way to a physical therapy appointment. He messed up his rotator-cuff tendons and cracked a rib. Then, as he was biking on his way to get an MRI of his shoulder, he collided with another bicyclist, landing on the same shoulder. Now he’s got a broken shoulder, clavicle, and arm.

More irony – he was at the Oct. 5 city council meeting to hear the council discuss bicycle safety, specifically the Safe Roadways Committee recommendation to legalize sidewalk bicycle riding. Currently it is illegal, though not much enforced. There are a number of city roads that are bicycle-dangerous. Ethan Allen Avenue, for example. The SRC says it would be safer if bicyclists could legally get on the sidewalk. Also, the SRC feels that children and less confident riders would prefer to ride on sidewalks.

The city police are not crazy about the proposal, even though neighboring jurisdictions, Montgomery County and Washington, DC both allow sidewalk bike riding.

A slim majority of the council have qualms about it, too. Every idea raised (banning it in Old Takoma), sparked a quibble (Why should the rich, “cute” part of town have the only exception?).

The straw vote was in favor (barely) of continuing to discuss the idea.

Into the weeds

Sidewalk biking was the subject of one of two city council work sessions Wednesday night. “Work session” is council-talk for “a long discussion that gets into the weeds and doesn’t come to any big conclusion.”

It’s awful to endure, but it’s necessary. Transparent government and all that. At least we’re not subject to all the email traffic and side conversations that reportedly go on between councilmembers. Can you imagine? If we were religious, we’d pray daily that the council doesn’t do something stupid, forcing us to file a Freedom of Information Act request for those emails.

Successful youth

The other subject was youth success. What programs should the city support that would be most effective in helping local youth find success in life? And how should the city support them?

Between the city and the county there are a lot of youth programs. The problem is that the youth who need them most don’t know about them.

There is only so much money the city can spend on youth programs. Solutions include finding grants and steering kids to county programs.

As usually happens when there is just too much to think about and the council in the words of councilmember Jarrett Smith ‘can’t get my head around it,” someone (Councilmember Peter Kovar in this case) proposed forming a task force. Not one of those “usual suspects” task forces, though. This one would have people closer to the problem.

– Gilbert


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About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

8 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Arborist resigns, unsafe roads, youth"

  1. Glad the tree Nazi is finally going. Hopefully, they won’t hire another, but Takoma Park City Council loving to spend our money with wild abandon, will likely find another enforcer. I’d be glad if they’d give this function to the county–like they do apartment inspection. Anyway, long live those of us who want to practice sustainable, responsible, balanced management of trees on our own property. Down with tree Nazis and anybody who thinks we need to hire another.

  2. Godwin’s Law invoked by the first comment. Well done, TkPk!

  3. “Tree Nazi” is an expression along the lines of “Soup Nazi.” Well done with the overreaction, JP.

    And, yes, the arborist position should be left unfilled, if only to annoy the atavistic tree worshippers in town who believe that trees are sacred and irreplaceable.

  4. The Arborist was just carrying out the tree ordinance laws. The individual may be gone, but the laws remain. Be advised that the council is considering revising them, so you tree-haters who want to raze the city’s tree canopy better get organized and talk to your concilmembers.

  5. I’ve all for preserving tree canopy and completely opposed to the irrational beliefs of people who believe that trees are sacred and irreplaceable and who object to sensible measures such as taking down diseased and dying specimens especially when they threaten power lines.

    • I agree Brian, but then again, like you, I didn’t drink the Kool-aid. I believe that trees are important and I love the ones on my Sligo Creek Parkway, but over-populating the forest to the point where we make sacrosanct two trees growing out of the same spot,or dead, dying, diseased, and trees that loom large over roofs or grow under foundations is ridiculous. There’s balance. I know that’s a dirty word around here, but I’m going to use it. Balance You Takoma Park, Balance you. Yes, the B word. It scares them so.

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