Will 'Tom the Tree' get the ax?

As the ax comes closer to stumping storied Tom the Tree on Easton Drive, some city officials are wondering whether the drawn-out debate will become an issue during campaign season.

“Everything in Burlingame is political. Even the weather is political,” said Mayor Terry Nagel, who failed to garner support Monday night for turning Easton Drive into a one-way street — a move meant to save the towering century-old eucalyptus tree that has encroached upon the Easton Drive-Cabrillo Avenue intersection. On Monday, the council took no action.

During the council meeting, as Nagel pushed for the one-way street alternative, she found herself on the receiving end of heavy criticism due to an open letter she released the previous week that outlined her views on the tree — a tactic Councilman Russ Cohen called “not good government.” Cohen and Nagel will be defending their seats in the November election.

“This particular issue has illustrated very clearly how each councilmember goes about problem solving,” said Cohen, who wants Tom preserved.

The tree’s destiny has been debated for more than two years.

The council agreed to cut the tree down in December, but after a public outcry, Nagel agreed in January to delay its removal and explore other alternatives, such as realigning Easton Drive around the tree, which also did not win council support.

Nagel said Tuesday that because the split council “will not support any compromise,” she will endorse Tom’s removal and replacement at the June 4 council meeting.

She also has called on community activists to form a nonprofit group that could collect grants to fund future tree projects.

“I feel an urgency to resolve this continuing debate as expeditiously aspossible,” Nagel said.

Challengers Peter Comaroto and Jerry Deal both said Tuesday a resolution on the tree is overdue. Deal said the council should have adopted a general reforestation plan before deciding on Tom.

“The council, through their inactivity has made [trees] a political issue,” said Deal, who attended the Monday meeting. “I’ve talked to a number of people who didn’t really mind whether to take it down [or to leave it], but they were frustrated by how it’s been handled.”

Lori Bainton, a 10-year Easton Drive resident, supports making the road one-way westbound. She said the trees are the reason she moved there.

bfoley@examiner.com


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