Burlingame tree decision incites derision

With the dust — or sawdust — settling from the tumultuous debate over “Tom” the tree, three City Council candidates vying for a seat in the November elections each said the issue reflected an indecisive, slow-moving council.

After four years of deliberating, the council narrowly decided in a 3-2 vote Monday night to remove and replace the century-old blue gum eucalyptus tree that has sunk its roots into Easton Drive.

Several alternatives have been considered but were never approved, such as realigning the road. The late-night vote Monday, which included the approval of an urban-forest master plan, ended the argument over the tree, but also launched an issue for the candidates. Mayor Terry Nagel and Councilman Russ Cohen are defending their seats against three challengers.

“When you are afraid to make a decision, because you might get a negative response, you aren’t leading anymore,” challenger and Planning Commissioner Jerry Deal said. Deal said the council should have approved a master plan before bringing “Tom” to the forefront of the debate.

Challenger Gene Condon said staff time and reports require money. He paralleled the tree decision to the process of rebuilding the Safeway on Howard Avenue.

A seven-member committee of local stakeholders is holding monthly meetings with the goal of proposing a new store.

“Our city is not going forward — it’s sitting there stagnant,” Condon said.

Challenger Peter Comaroto compared the tree debate with another boiling issue: sidewalk-repair payments. On Monday, the council deferred billing residents for repairs until at least next year. But Comaroto wants the ordinance repealed.

“[The tree] was indicative of a council not being able to make a decision in an expeditious fashion,” he said.

On the other end, incumbents Nagel and Cohen said that the current council has made strides in promoting government transparency and spurring civic engagement and public dialogue.

As for the tree issue, Nagel voted to replace “Tom,” citing safety concerns, while Cohen wanted to post traffic-warning signs. All three challengers declined to entertain the hypothetical question of what they would do if they were faced with the tree’s fate.

bfoley@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have taken different approaches to transit and infrastructure funding. <ins>(Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)</ins>
Bay Area transit has big hopes for a Biden administration

The best chance for local agencies to get relief may be a change in federal leadership

BART Ambassadors are being called on to assist riders in social situations that don’t require police force. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Unarmed BART ambassadors program formalized with a focus on community service

Public safety and police reform are key elements in campaigns of Board members Dufty and Simon

San Francisco DJ and producer Jah Yzer livestreams most mornings from his home. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Roots & Tings build community through music

Lateef the Truthspeaker, Jah Yzer and Winstrong call for voting as a form of healing

Lee Vining and Inyo National Forest are excellent fall color tour destinations. (Matt Johanson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Gold Rush: Go now to see Sierra fall color

Maples, oaks, dogwoods, aspens glow in the next few weeks

On Oct. 13, people lined up to vote early for the presidential election in Southlake, Texas. <ins>(Shutterstock)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Five things to watch for in the run-up to Nov. 3

Down-ballot races, as much as the presidency, will determine the future course of this nation

Most Read