Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd this morning said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office has let complaints about the condition of city trees pile up -- and he called on colleagues to join him in pressuring the administration to develop a written plan.
"This is not a sexy issue," Mr. Dowd said. "It is not a glamorous issue. It is, therefore, not an issue receiving the attention of this mayor."
Mr. Dowd was reacting to a proposed settlement of $5,300 with Lincoln-Lemington resident Tonya Session, who claimed that her car was damaged last year by branches that fell from a city tree.
He said solicitor Dan Regan told council during an executive session that a complaint about the tree had been lodged with the city in 2007 but that no pruning ever was performed.
Mr. Dowd said he knows of at least one other case in which complaints about a tree have gone unaddressed for two years, and he noted that city Controller Michael Lamb expressed concern about the scope of tree-related settlements in a May audit of the law department.
He called on his colleagues to postpone voting on the settlement until Mr. Ravenstahl presents a plan for addressing tree complaints citywide.
Public works director Rob Kaczorowski said his department lost people and resources when the city cut its budget and went into state financial oversight about eight years ago.
"The forestry division is a challenge," he said, adding that he's already working on a plan for reorganizing forestry operations.
Mr. Kaczorowski said the plan will involve decentralizing the services so that pruners are assigned to public works stations throughout the city.
"The response time is going to be cut. It's going to be so much more efficient," he said.
Despite Mr. Dowd's concerns, council gave preliminary approval to the settlement with Ms. Session.
Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.