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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Upholding respect, balance & equal rights in El Cerrito

Dear City Council members, Tree Commissioners, Scott Hanin, Sandy Chapek, Dan Clark and Bruce King, and the El Cerrito Wire,

The "Celebration of Diversity" event at the El Cerrito Community Center on Saturday September 13 was inspiring and interesting. I appreciated the speakers' presentations and the spirit of respect that seemed to be shared by the whole group present. Congratulations and thank you to all who organized, supported, and participated in the event. It was nice to see Mark Friedman and Janet Abelson at the event as well. (I was sorry I was unable to stay the entire morning, due to a previous commitment.)

The spirit of tolerance, acceptance and respect during that event contrasted very dramatically with the atmosphere and spirit of the public meeting held on September 11 concerning a tree-view ordinance in El Cerrito. During the 9-11 meeting, many of us who attended the meeting felt that, unfortunately, there were seemingly-predominant attitudes of disrespect, intolerance, and rudeness -- among many of the people who loudly defended their opinions to protect their personal Bay views from their property. The meeting deeply saddened and upset me and many others who are interested in balance, equal rights, and respect of diverse perspectives about trees and views.

We felt we were subject to a type of intolerance and discrimination against our opinions and values. We were scoffed, rediculed, and laughed at when we discussed the benefits and values of trees to our community and for our properties, even though we cited scientific information and evidence from official sources. Some of us were told harshly by Bay-view-defenders that our appreciation of "green" views and values of trees means nothing in comparison to retaining or enhancing their own personal Bay vistas.
The noise and pandemonium of the "facilitated" process was also very upsetting...since the whole event seemed to collapse into a shouting match as people attempted to hear and communicate in break-out groups in the echo-filled gym. The "voting" procedure encouraged by the "facilitator" had little or no meaning in the midst of such noise, disarray & disrespect.

The Friends of El Cerrito Trees supports the following basic principles:
- balance and mediation, not escalating conflict and not litigation;
- respect, tolerance, and decency among citizens;
- equal rights among all citizens, not preferential treatment for those property owners who happen to have (or want) Bay views;
- recognition that buying property in El Cerrito does NOT give the property owners a pre-determined right a Bay view or to the air-space above other buildings and properties below;
- education and decisions based on knowledge about trees;
- appreciation of the broader community and social values of our city's assets (both trees and views) -- looking beyond personal property values alone.

Our group is striving to make El Cerrito a more beautiful and peaceful place where we can all live. In order to develop win-win solutions to this contentious issue, the unacceptable attitudes of selfishness, bullying, and self-righteousness need to be replaced by respect, tolerance of diverse opinions, and equal rights of citizens to views and trees.
Thank you for your consideration,
Ann Thrupp
Coordinator, Friends of El Cerrito Trees
Run dates: 2003-09-23 - 2003-10-07

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