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Lakewood’s city tree: Donald Anderson gets the first word and the last laugh

Donald AndersonFormer Lakewood mayor Donald Anderson is an unpleasant bully, but that doesn’t excuse the spineless fawning of three of the City’s council members.

On April 11, 2022, the Council had a study session, at which members discussed council member Michael Brandstetter’s proposed resolution that the Garry oak become Lakewood’s official City tree. This would have been an acknowledgement that the Garry oak has a special importance to Lakewood, and perhaps it would have made people think twice before cutting Garry oaks down.

David Bugher, the assistant city manager and general éminence grise, made a few comments, and then Donald Anderson jumped in first to give his opinion. This was typical Anderson. Go in first, push his opinions on everyone else:

I’m a bit hesitant about this because I don’t see how it can be decoupled from having a tree committee looking at what we should do. And if we’re… As innocuous as it may seem, if we vote and say that the Oregon white oak is the city tree, then next thing anybody is going to say is that you can’t cut any down because it is the city tree, and it’s going to come right back in our face.

Naturally, Mary Moss, the low-key new deputy mayor, agreed with Anderson:

Based on what we are dealing with, I have to agree with Council Member Anderson. We don’t want to make… Let the other group help us make this decision.

Council member Linda Farmer followed suit:

I would like a little bit more information about what it would mean to designate a city tree, to Council member Anderson’s point. What would happen if we needed to cut one down…?

Note how Linda Farmer has added a new concept to the argument, the need for more information. This leads to council member Patti Belle’s view:

Thank you, Deputy Mayor. I would also like to agree with Council Member Anderson, and it seems like the majority, that I would like more information, too, and I agree that we’d get ourselves into an interesting situation if we did have to cut down a city tree. So I would love a lot more clarity on that.

Patti Belle is the newest and youngest council member, originally appointed rather than elected. Her day job is in some other municipality’s city government, and perhaps she’s used to telling city politicians what they want to hear. We can observe how she takes Anderson’s point about the problems of cutting down City trees, and tacks on Linda Farmer’s request for more information. So she’s behaving like a vacuum cleaner for other people’s opinions. And by expressing her view last, she can follow the majority without sticking her neck out.

We can see how Donald Anderson has pushed the council into line. He also gets the last laugh, when he finished the exchange by making a comment about Douglas firs:

I would note that the State tree of Oregon is the Douglas fir and they make a business of cutting them down as quickly as they can.

If you watch the video of the exchange, you’ll see that the bully ends this comment with a chuckle. In this instructive display of his modus operandi, Anderson concludes the tidy process by which he killed Michael Brandstetter’s proposal with ridicule.

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