What killer trees can teach us

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If you read this weeks front page article on the overlooked, albeit rare threat of dead trees over our heads, you might be thinking its much ado about nothing. Are there killer trees standing idly, conspiring to administer death from above? No. Does a threat exist? Yes.

The story brings up interesting questions whose answers seem fleeting: Where does the governments role end and the citizens role begin? Where does the governments role begin and the citizens end? It is easy to simplify the answer in many cases, especially on the national level; differing opinions over the governments breadth of responsibility define the two major parties in this country. Republicans generally prefer a hands-off approach to Democrats hands-on approach. A Republican might view a given government initiative as invasive, for instance, while Democrats might see it as necessary.

The same is true on a local level, but to a much lesser degree. Issues like park maintenance a dead tree that threatens lives or severe traffic congestion, Alexandrias primary burden, are nonpartisan issues. Interestingly, the nonpartisan issues are the ones that can be most easily affected with individual action, regardless of the administration overseeing Washington or the party that dominates the Alexandria City Council.

Public safety is another nonpartisan issue on which most everyone agrees. Its tough to find a politician or resident who wants to cut funding for police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

As the city arborist told the Times this week, he depends on residents to be vigilant. The government requires proactive involvement from its residents if it is to help them. As the city attorney stated, the government needs to in turn act in a timely manner to its citizenry. This exchange occurred in the case of the killer trees and ended with the city dispatching its resources to Dora Kelly Park to solve the problem.

Just two weeks ago, the city government reacted to a letter in these pages that deplored the non-existent weekend hours at some city pools. How could they be so blind, the writer wanted to know. Turns out, it was an oversight on the citys part. And it was the engaged resident who cured its blindness by being its eyes. The government opened the pools almost immediately.

So the answer to the questions posed above is not as fleeting as one might think. The role of both the government and its citizenry is the same: Interaction. There is often no beginning or end to eithers influence on the other. Surely the government cannot be expected to inspect every tree in the city; but it can be expected to listen to residents if they have qualms. 

Now, we are not so nave to say that the government reacts flawlessly to residents needs. Sometimes it fails to react at all. But the louder you yell, the more likely they are to hear you. And we want to hear from you, too, at [email protected]

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