Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Cambridge’s Law Department usually emails documents, large and small, promptly and at no charge.

But asking about trees is different. The city has never released a Linear Park traffic count requested last November. The city withheld a tree canopy report for months, claiming “it was not complete.” The city was ordered to release documents about the park three separate times but it continues stalling, creating months of delays.

By violating our “Sunshine Law,” which is our right to get information, and defying the commonwealth’s order to release documents, our City of Cambridge feeds distrust of our local government. Transparency and obeying the law are critical to earning our trust. The commonwealth’s order states “the Public Records Law strongly favors disclosure by creating a presumption that all governmental records are public records.”

Instead, the city continues to hide its plans for our public park like Donald Trump hiding boxes in Mar-a-Lago. We have a right to see how our tax dollars are spent, and public servants should damn well be obeying the law. Above all, the city should comply with the state order. The next step is for the state to sue the city, in which case you, the taxpayer, get to pay both sides of that lawsuit. That will be the city’s fault.

Sadly, the motive for hiding the plans is simple and appalling. Our city is on track to kill or maim nearly 100 trees by redesigning our Linear Park when its existing design has won four awards. That this is a waste of money doesn’t matter. That these trees are critical to locally combating climate change means nothing. And the city couldn’t care less about breaking the law and our trust.

Charles Teague lives in North Cambridge and is a longtime tree advocate.