Mayor takes next step to engage with residents
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012 06:00 am
Trees, taxes and public consultation are three of the most often debated issues in St. Albert these days.
Residents don’t like the high taxes but love their trees. The trees add beauty to the city, help with the environment and help reduce road noise. So when it was revealed this spring that the city planned to cut down virtually all of the more than 1,300 poplar trees lining the streets, many people were upset.
Not just that they were waking up some mornings to find crews cutting trees along their street, but that they hadn’t been fully informed of the city program to remove the poplars and replace them with other trees.
Public consultation – or lack of it as some residents argued – was as much at issue as the actual tree cutting and to that end Mayor Nolan Crouse has taken one more step in his public interaction with citizens. The mayor last week began blogging and his first topic was trees.
“As we all walk, bike and drive around we see too many dead, sick, dying and missing trees and it must be priority to improve the status of this important element of the community,” he wrote.
While city crews have been busy cutting and replacing trees all summer, the mayor asked: “Are we making progress fast enough? My opinion is ‘be aggressive’ as we need to catch up.”
He wants to see city streets with no missing or dead trees.
He posted a chart showing that St. Albert had about 660 trees per 1,000 residents, on boulevards and medians. That’s well above the median for Alberta of 261 trees per 1,000 residents, Edmonton’s 155 and Strathcona County’s 302. While that’s a good thing, the flip side is that trees are costly to maintain.
It’s unfortunate that mature trees have to be cut and replaced, but there’s a number of reasons why poplars shouldn’t be a city’s first choice. Yes, they grow fast, but they’re prone to diseases and because of their quick growth there’s a structural integrity problem that can create liability issues.
As well, the annual fluff explosion is a nightmare for allergy sufferers and homeowners have to deal with cleaning it from their HVAC systems and eavestroughs.
So the mayor picked a timely and important issue for his first blog post. While there were only 15 replies and several of them dealt with the tree issue and the cost of the replacement program, most were simply reacting – very positively – to Crouse’s blogging.
Crouse is no stranger to the world of social networking. He’s been on Twitter and Facebook for some time so blogging was a natural next step. This social networking gives the mayor the chance to voice more of his personal opinions on the topic of the day, issues he’s interested in, or to just interact on a more personal basis with St. Albert citizens.
That’s important, especially given that most citizens don’t have the chance to attend council meetings that usually start at 3 p.m. And with the mayor attending so many social and other functions throughout the city, citizens may find it difficult to interact with him face to face.
So social networking is the next best thing and the mayor has to be applauded for being so active there.