By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

From the outset, Alameda County officials seemed genuinely surprised by the level of anger exhibited by some San Leandro residents over a plan last year to eliminate 46 eucalyptus trees at San Leandro Creek. It appeared the proposal was in response to reports some of the trees and their branches posed a threat to hikers and nearby homes, but some homeowners perceived it as some sort of breach of life and liberty.

Map of San Leandro Creek which cuts
through the city. Tree removal is slated
to begin in areas on the east side.
Nobody was more critical of the plan than San Leandro resident Gary Molitor. On many occasions the tall, white goateed San Leandro resident became part expert on local natural history and part union-thug. At one meeting last year, he whipped himself into a frenzy while criticizing county officials and hogging much of the allotted time for public comment. Resident in favor of the county’s plan began to shout him down. Molitor apparently mistook the ruckus for support of his cause and confidently dared the officials he would not sit down until the “people” asked him to quit talking. Hilariously, before he could finish the sentence, a few residents yelled, “sit down!”

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan announced last week, the proposal to cut 46 trees down would be limited to just 17. A previous reduction lowered the number to 25. Why? Because the level of anger and time spent on the issue may have not been worth the time.

Much of the angry response to the county plan, though, rests with the county. Tree-hugging San Leandrans already predisposed to conspiracy were rudely stoked early last year when the initial plan had the hallmarks of local government pushing through policy by cover of night. Critics howled at a proposal nearly fully-formed without public input. Reports of county workers jumping unannounced into home owners backyards did not help, nor did testimony from a woman who said the shock of men jumping over fences frightened her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Regardless of the reduction in trees on the chopping block, the persistent specter of conspiracy still lingers. Molitor, who stood for the non-native eucalyptus over the return of native fauna, still thinks the county still has it in for the oily, fast-growing outsider species, despite the preference for native plants almost widely preferred by environmentalists.

The main lesson here is not government moved by the will of its people, but the will of the screaming mob to reverse county policy. The problem with San Leandro is its most fervent group of voices tends to raise armies on issues most would put deep toward the bottom of vexing city problems. We have seen it in the past with Farley Pool and we have seen it now with San Leandro Creek where time and precious energy is wasted. Neither is a bad proposal, but hardly issues that keep people safe, satiated and employed.