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Columnist wants to see better management of city trees in 2013

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As I look forward to the new year, below is one civic leader’s Top 10 wish list for 2013:

1. Replacement of broken curbs will receive higher priority than miles of needless bike lane construction. The city Department of Transportation continues to spend millions of dollars installing traffic-choking bike lanes that create gridlock. Spend those resources on crumbling curbs and broken sidewalks.

2. Common sense and sanity will reign at the city Parks Department. Hurricane Sandy taught us that the time has come to end the criminalization of tree pruning by homeowners who wish to maintain city trees in front of their homes. Homeowners have a vested interest in maintaining these trees that have been neglected by the city. Left unattended, these trees damage sidewalks, crack water and sewer lines and fall onto properties, causing damage and injury to people. The Parks Department’s failure to modify its rules has made “outlaws” out of responsible homeowners who seek to prune dangerous branches.

3. Put people ahead of trees. The city’s obsession with trees has created a de facto policy that puts the health and welfare of trees before the people. Hard to believe? As president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, I have been requesting curb repairs for more than 15 years. This past week, I finally had the opportunity to walk the property with a senior DOT inspector.

Most of the curbs in our community have been eviscerated by tree roots, leaving deep ruts from water runoff where curbs used to channel running rainwater into catch basins. Many unsuspecting motorists have stepped out of their vehicles at night into one of these crevices and have been injured. Even so, Parks will not allow the DOT to cut tree roots or remove trees to facilitate curb repairs.

In other words, the city is more concerned about the health of its trees than about your health and well-being. Will Obamacare offer tree coverage?

4. Prohibit politicians from using campaign funds to pay their legal fees. Using these funds to defend themselves against charges of corruption or misuse of taxpayer-provided campaign funds is inappropriate. Also, garnish the wages of politicians who refuse to pay fines imposed for illegally plastering campaign signs on public property.

5. End the dog-and-pony shows of politicians presenting awards to each other for job performance that is marginal at best. Also, cease naming public structures after politicians.

6. Politicians must stop blaming every problem on someone else and begin to look in the mirror. Policies are made by them, not taxpayers.

7. End the inherent conflict of interest between government and public sector unions. As long as unions provide money and resources to elect politicians, whose interests will best be served by elected officials: taxpayers or unions?

8. Let us recognize that there is a difference between the United Federation of Teachers and individual teachers. The UFT’s primary focus is not children but jobs for its members. It is the individual teacher who is focused on children first.

9. End political correctness, charges of “code word” usage and accusing others of being racist for merely stating debatable policy positions.

10. More local newspaper coverage of civic organizations fighting to improve their communities. Quote civic leaders and mention their names and civic groups and do the same for the politicians, who are often a day late and an idea short of a solution. Expand the Letters to the Editor section by adding an additional page.

After having read my Top 10 civic wish list, why not send some of your own to the Letters to the Editor section of this paper?

Until then, happy and healthy new year to all.

Bob Friedrich is president of Glen Oaks Village and a civic leader.

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