Ed Murray for Seattle Mayor Questionnaire

TreePAC Questions for Seattle City Candidates Nov.2013

Name: Ed Murray

Contact info: info@murray4mayor.com or 206.569.8337

Office and position you are running for: Seattle Mayor

1. Seattle currently has a 23% tree canopy cover. Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan targets a 30% canopy goal by 2037. To help reach this goal do you support strengthening tree protection by requiring permits to remove large trees on private property which Portland, Oregon ; Redmond, WA; Lake Forest Park, WA; and Vancouver, BC currently do and as the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT ) now requires for street trees?

Yes, this is why I sponsored the Evergreen Cities Initiave, to support our cities in developing sustainable Urban Forest Management plans, and to fund their implementation. Tree canopies prevent soil erosion, help stormwater mitigation, improve air quality, provide habitat for wildlife and profoundly influence the liveability of our neighborhoods. We should strengthen our protections of Seattle’s existing tree canopies, and require good reasons for removing large trees, even on private property.

2. Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan also states a goal of no net loss of canopy. Do you support requiring large trees being removed on public and private property to be replaced either on site or off site and proportional in size, over time, to the canopy being lost as Cities like Portland, OR and Redmond, WA currently do?

Yes, it is important that we expand Seattle’s overall tree canopy cover. We can’t lose this cover to attrition, even if, here and there, large trees are removed for good reasons (infrastructure impacts, public safety, etc.). We need to support planting additional trees to prevent any net losses. I support the updated Urban Forest Stewardship Plan’s requirement that 2 trees be planted for each removed.

3. Seattle’s interim tree ordinance protects existing groves of trees from being removed. The Department of Planning and Development has proposed removing this protection. Do you support continuing the policy of protecting tree groves to conserve habitat and canopy?

Yes. The Department of Planning and Development is wrong on this issue, just as the Seattle Public School District was wrong in proposing to raze a grove of trees as part of an Ingraham High School expansion project. I signed Steve Zemke’s petition calling on the SPSD to desist, and joined with the City Council in supporting the protection of groves. Unfortunately, this is an issue where the DPD has come down on the side of development, growth and density. That would change under my administration.

4. The City Auditor in 2009 stated that the “City’s current approach to tree issues lacks top leadership.” Unifying “all City Departments behind a single vision through clear and demonstrated leadership of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment” has been recommended. Would you support a true City Arborist’s Office located in OSE with oversight and coordination of all urban forest issues in parks, streets, critical areas, private property and utilities?

Yes. The most obvious home for a City Arborist’s Office would be in the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, not the SDOT. On this issue, like many important, complex issues facing Seattle, somebody needs to oversee and coordinate the activities of different departments. Severe cuts to Seattle’s administrative services, and the loss of our city policy and management shop, OPM, has impaired communication and coordination between city offices, agencies and departments. We need to remedy these mistakes.

5. Larger trees provide significantly more ecological value to Seattle’s green infrastructure, including reducing storm water runoff, cleaning pollutants from the air and providing animal habitat. Do you support giving greater protection to large trees like Heritage Trees and exceptional trees? (by requiring a larger permit fee and greater numbers of trees being planted if they are removed or by prohibiting removal unless shown to be hazardous)

Yes. The benefits of Seattle’s tree canopy, and trees in general, is not just a function of their numbers. Larger, older trees should command greater respect and attention in our stewardship decisions. We should have more stringent restrictions on the destruction of Heritage trees, and find ways to encourage their retention as our city grows.

6. TreePAC believes that deferred maintenance results in the costly replacement of trees and landscapes. Will you fight to fund the maintenance of public greenspaces, including increased funding for the Green Seattle Partnership so that the goals to restore our parklands, greenbelts, and critical areas can be met?

Yes. The Seattle parks system faces ongoing financial challenges, including a $25 million annual shortfall for operations and maintenance, and a more than $200 million maintenance backlog. I will strongly support renewing the Seattle parks levy next year at a level that allows us to address some of that deficit. Additionally, I support and will spearhead the creation of a Metropolitan Parks District. This strategy has succeeded in other communities in Washington State, often with no new administrative costs. While this would increase taxes on property owners, it will relieve the City’s burden to use special levies for Parks, and will provide relief to both the General and Cumulative Reserve Funds. Most importantly, this money will be solely for Parks and could not be diverted for any other purpose.

7. Are you willing to meet briefly with representatives from TreePAC, at a time and place that is mutually convenient?

Yes, of course.