Reporter’s notebook: Mangled trees and the return of an old political hand

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

What, oh what to do about the Alice Bell Park Tree Massacre? Weeks after a privately hired landscaping crew whacked major limbs off flowering trees in the park, city officials are having a tough time figuring out how to remedy the damage.

There’s been a lot of correspondence between Alice Bell Spring Hill Neighborhood Association president Ronnie Collins and city officials, but the matter is still unresolved. Collins’ first email was to urban forester Kasey Krouse, who said he’d already investigated the matter and learned that the culprits were landscapers hired by Amigos Restaurant, the park’s next-door neighbor.

“Their intent was to clean up the area and make it look more presentable, but I don’t think their contractors realized they were working on public property,” said Krouse, who favored waiting for the trees to recover before pruning them into form.

Amigos manager Carlos Ibarra said the landscapers had shown up on his day off and didn’t understand their boundaries. He was extremely apologetic.

“Anything that we can do to help fix the problem, this is our community, too. I grew up on Green Meadow Lane, in the Alice Bell Community. Anything we could do for the community, we’d be glad to do it.”

Ibarra’s apology got Collins’ attention. The matter is still unresolved, but he believes there’s something Ibarra could do that would be a good start:

“I think the first thing he needs to do is talk to Bob Luttrell, his neighbor on Green Meadow Lane. Bob’s the reason that park is there, and we ought to hear what he has to say before we make any decisions.”

Bratton’s back and the Dems have him

Bolstered by strong support from party stalwart Sylvia Woods, the Ninth District Democrats elected former county commissioner/school board member/trustee candidate Robert Bratton to represent them on the Board of Governors.

Bratton’s past was an issue, and the contest was a graphic example of the divide between traditional Democrats and Progressives.

Out of public office since 2010, he lost a re-election bid to Pam Trainor in the wake of the county’s settling a female custodian’s sexual harassment lawsuit that named him as the offender. School video of Bratton walking in the hallway of a school with the custodian was made public, and Knox County Schools took the unusual step of banning a sitting board member (Bratton) from school property.

His sponsorship of a 1993 County Commission resolution urging Congress not to extend civil rights protection to gay people was also a flashpoint. Bratton’s defense is that gays are not a downtrodden minority.

Ultimately, however, Bratton won out 8-6 over Colby Inman, who has never held public office.

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