Dear Mr. Giornelli:
I write in response to your August 26 letter to the City Council posted on the mayor’s website (www.atlantaga.gov). I do not know why you, as Chief Operating Officer of the city, feel compelled to speak for the Arborist Division and to deny its problems. Whatever the reason, your letter appears as an official communiqué from the mayor’s office. As such it prejudices the ongoing and supposedly independent investigation by the HR department into my still unexplained firing, compromising the investigation and reducing the possibility of an objective evaluation and judgment by the HR investigator.
You complain of “misinformation circling that has obscured our track record,” one that makes the Arborist Division “one of the City’s bigger success stories.” I certainly do not deny the significant changes wrought by the Tree Protection Ordinance since year 2000. I helped guide and push those changes. It is not “misinformation,” however, to point out the central problems in the Arborist Division that prevent further advance — the unequal and inconsistent application and, in particular, the lack of enforcement of the ordinance by the field arborist staff. These are problems that need to be addressed, not papered over with vague and dishonest claims of “misinformation.”
I documented the lack of enforcement in my July 30 letter to the mayor, which I will also attach to this message. I here add material from the productivity analysis that I submitted to Arboricultural Manager Ainsley Caldwell shortly before my firing. The data is official, abstracted from monthly “Inspections Completed By” reports generated from the Bureau of Buildings’ KIVA database.
In your letter to council you state, with no evidence, that the Northwest section of the city has the greatest amount of development and thus the greatest amount of inspection activity. Could be, but the statistic, if true, is meaningless. My assigned territory encompassed part of the NW and part of the NE quadrants, with the lion’s share of each quadrant assigned to Janell Bazile (NW) and Paul Lewkowicz (NE). Michael Franklin was assigned to the SE and SW.
The chart above reflects “development” in the areas assigned to each field arborist. “Yellow postings” refer to the color of the sign that is posted for five business days on sites that have received preliminary arborist approval for tree removal in construction:
The second chart below graphs this data as percentages, giving some idea of relative development pressure in each arborist’s assigned territory:
If, as you imply, the amount of development is probably correlated with the amount of illegal destruction, it is logical to assume that if 36% of the construction is going on in the “TC” area, roughly 36% of enforcement activities should be expected in that area. Likewise for the other arborists: Construction practice being equal across the city, if each arborist followed standard enforcement practice, we should expect relative parity in enforcement activity with development activity. The pie chart on enforcement should look much like the one above.
Such is not the case, however. In the chart below, “ACRC Inspections” refer to illegal destruction citations entered into KIVA. It is the only indicator available to track illegal destruction charges. It is the only measure available of enforcement activity in the Arborist Division. The chart is stunning:
I’m sorry, Mr. Giornelli, but without enforcement the Tree Protection Ordinance is a dead letter, and the only arborist engaged in enforcement has been fired. Ignoring and denying the enforcement problem makes your declaration of an Arborist Division “success story” a sham and a shame. The city deserves more than a cover-up from you and the mayor’s office.