Letters to the Mayor

Below are a sample of citizen letters sent to Mayor Reed after pre-trial hearings in late July/early August 2010 revealed that the City of Atlanta would likely lose if Tom Coffin's whistleblower lawsuit went to trial.  Some letter writers supported Tom's efforts to uphold Atlanta's Tree Ordinance while others were more concerned with the budget implications of continuing this case. There was never any response from the Mayor's office to any of these letters.  The City of Atlanta decided to settle the case on terms very favorable to Coffin shortly before the trial was to begin in February 2011, five months after these letters were sent.

August 24, 2010

Dear Mayor Reed,

This letter is in support of Dr Tom Coffin, Atlanta ’s arborist.

Atlanta has been called a city built in a forest. Trees are an integral part of Atlanta ’s cityscape. They provide much more than just pleasant scenery. Thus I was delighted when Atlanta finally passed its tree ordinance, which was not as strong as I would have liked, but which was a reasonable start towards preservation of our environment.

It is unfortunately not surprising that rapacious developers would try to water down or ignore the tree ordinance. It is painful that they would do so by attacking the work of Dr Tom Coffin. Dr Coffin came to his environmental credo early, but was one of the few who obtained the necessary academic training to become an environmental scientist, not just an advocate. We need people with his credibility and knowledge to enforce our ordinance. It is disturbing, even shameful, that the City would try to undermine his work using quasi-legal mechanisms. I am a physician, not a lawyer, but my understanding of the case against Dr Coffin is that it is simply absurd Indeed there is growing dismay about Atlanta among arborists and environmentalist throughout the nation. I have received phone calls and e-mails from friends, colleague, and relatives from far outside of Atlanta who are aghast that this case has not yet been resolved in Dr Coffin’s favor.

I urge you to familiarize yourself with the details of this dispute. I am confident that if you do, you will cancel the city’s “case” against Dr Coffin.

Sincerely yours,

J. Michael Lane MD , MPH

August 23, 2010

Dear Mayor Reed,

Over 40 years ago, I accepted an offer to teach at Georgia State University. When I flew down from Detroit for my initial interview in the spring of the year, I was overcome with the beauty of the city compared with Detroit.  Trees!  Flowers in bloom and an incredibly friendly hospitality. The decision was easy to make. My wife, Judy, young son Cameron, and I loaded up a rental truck and moved to Atlanta. At a starting teacher’s salary, we were just able to rent a house in the then rundown neighborhood of Virginia Highland. Eventually we were able to buy it and remain there today. Around the house were large old oak trees which shaded the house making the hot summers enjoyable. As these trees aged we lost a couple to high winds and one to disease. Recently another tree came into question and I called the city to ask for an opinion towards the hope of saving it. No response from the city, however it was suggested that I contact our neighbor, Tom Coffin, about the issue. He was quick to respond, took photos and biological samples of the fungus attacking it and sent them out for testing. When the results came back, we were very happy to find that our tree would be O.K. and could be saved.

I was extremely impressed with Mr. Coffin's knowledge and concern. When I learned of the full extent of what happened to him while in the job trying to protect one of Atlanta's most important assets, our wonderful canopy of trees, I was quite dismayed. As a result of investigating the history of this situation, I felt compelled to write to you hoping that you would personally take control. Please direct the city's attorneys to settle in favor of Mr. Coffin. Continuing to back the wrong side on this issue is a financial mistake and an embarrassment to the city’s reputation of enlightened development.

Truly, Tom Coffin is also one of Atlanta's most important assets. His commitment to our city's health and environment should be acknowledged and praised.

Most sincerely,
George Beasley

(George Beasley is the recently retired long-time chair of the Art Department at Georgia State University. Mr. Beasley now holds the title of Regents Professor Emeritus at the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design at GSU.)

Mayor Reed:

While I understand you have your hands full trying to keep the City from degrading further, this subject needs your attention.

I was an Atlanta resident for 32 years and served several terms on the Tree Conservation Commission under mayors Jackson and Franklin. Without the one exception of Connie Gray, Tom Coffin was the only arborist who really cared about The City In A Forest, and worked diligently to enforce the Tree Ordinance. Other employees, one of whom is still there, barely scraped by in job performance, and in my gradebook, get an F.

Not only is it deplorable that Tom Coffin was fired on trumped-up charges, but it shows how terribly mismanaged with favoritism and cronyism City government was and yes, still is. The old guard who should have retired with grace long ago fired the most competent, and kept the most incompetent -- those in cahoots with the developers and rumors of money under the table. What does this say about honesty, decency, and respect?

After 32 years of contributing time, energy, and taxes to Atlanta -- a city that seemed not to care -- I moved out. The fact that the City continues to fight and obfuscate Tom Coffin's whistleblower case shows that nothing has changed and my decision to leave was a wise one.

While you cannot control the outcome of the case, rest assured that people all over the country are watching how the City handles itself in this case. So far the City gets another F. The only honorable thing to do is to rehire Tom Coffin, with back pay, seniority, a decent office space, and a staff dedicated to the trees and not to the developers.

So Mayor Reed, what will you do?

Tom Kowalski

Dear Mayor Reed,

Civic pride is a wonderful thing.  Atlanta has stretched the concept more than once often without justification.  But it would do our City good, for a change, to  celebrate a true hero of urban living.   Why not make a positive example of Dr Tom Coffin?

I've lived 38 years in the same inner-city house, and I've been a primary care doctor in the Grady Health System for 37 of those years.  Neighborhood politicians have come and gone in that time.  Their promises and principles have often disappeared very quickly.  But I'm proud of the dedicated  folks I've come to know who believe in wholesome, integrated communities supported by a clear-thinking municipal administration.  Tom Coffin is a prime example.   His dedication to building progressive community life has done far more than any developer, real estate mogul or bank.

Over the years I followed with interest Tom's thinking about how to contribute to a sustainable environment.  I was intrigued by his decision to obtain a doctorate in tree science at the University of Georgia.  It wasn't easy for Tom and  his family to follow through on this ambitious plan, but he did it out of selfless concern.   He conscientiously prepared himself to help the whole city, not just the gentrifying neighborhoods.  What better way than to preserve our tree resources and make them available to all in the current and future generations?

Could it be true that City Hall chooses to  punish Tom Coffin for his dedication, steady contributions and zeal?   Please, ... NO!   The logical step is to  return him quickly to an effective role in preserving our urban quality.  Take the resources that City Hall would have budgeted for its foolish legal case, and spend them instead on a celebration of Tom Coffin as civic hero and positive role model.

Count on me to support the creation of a Tom Coffin Park or Tom Coffin Greenspace.   And let's not wait  until it has be built in his memory.

Henry S. Kahn, MD

August 21, 2010

Dear Mayor Reed,

I am the owner and founder of 72 Tree, Seed & Land Co., llc, and also the founder & developer of (STAE) specialized tree analysis experts, nationwide. We have interacted with attorneys, municipalites, associations, builders, and insurance companies for over 35 years involving arboriculture, construction and management. The case between Tom Coffin and the city is literally unbelievable!

This case has evolved into a point of immeasurable harm to Mr. Coffin. 72 TREE is also an organization with over 500 of the top minds in the U.S. and abroad. We have carefully monitored this case involving Mr. Coffin and the collateral damage to the trees of Atlanta while brilliant people, as Tom, are not performing what they have a passion to do.

From an ecological restoration firm's point of view, people do not realize that tree protection is complex involving science, mathematics, physics, engineering and experience. Mr. Coffin understands these principles, consequently, which is exemplified in his past performance. While his performance was fully warranted, the city should have treated this man with the fuduciary duty of protecting Mr. Coffin.

In conclusion, 72 Tree, Seed & Land Co., llc will be glad to express these facts in front of a congressional hearing. People need to wake up and realize the truth.

J.D. Shamoun
Owner of 72 Tree, Seed & Land Co., llc

Dear Mayor Reed -

I see my old friend Tom Coffin has come a cropper for trying to do his job of keeping Atlanta physically somewhat friendly to its denizens. Can't you put him back to work where he belongs? Right away? Before more unfavorable stuff about your formerly fair city spreads all the way out here to New Mexico where I moved to from Atlanta?

Reber Boult

August 19, 2010

Dear Mayor Reed,

I have been building houses in the developing neighborhoods of downtown Atlanta for about twenty years (until recently). As a builder, I dealt with Tom Coffin on numerous occasions and always found him to be professional and fair in his implementation of the tree ordinances.

The tree ordinances are in the best long-term interests of the city financially. The forest is the only natural amenity that distinguishes Atlanta. We have no oceanfront, riverfront or other focal feature. But we do have a forest, and it needs protection.

Some developers want to ignore the long term benefits of the forest canopy in order to save a dime, but their shortsightedness will cost us dearly if the city does not enforce the ordinances. The small cost of protecting the forest canopy will reap huge long term benefits for all – including even the short-sighted developers.

Therefore, I urge you to settle the case with Tom Coffin. We need Mr. Coffin back on the job, and the money the city is spending on the legal battle would serve the citizens far better if allocated elsewhere.

Thank you for taking these thoughts into consideration.

Sincerely yours,
Jonathan Marcus

August 17, 2010

Dear Mayor Reed,

I am writing concerning the status of Tom Coffin's case against the City of Atlanta. I think I should disclose that I am a neighbor of Tom Coffin and have greatly admired his work as City Arborist in trying enforce the tree ordinance to protect the trees of Atlanta. I am very much opposed to his having been fired by the City in the first place. I attended the last two Superior Court hearings and information garnered from those hearings show, in my opinion, that the City will almost certainly lose the case. (I hope you are following the case.)

I, as a tax payer if nothing more, am concerned that the case has dragged on far too long. This case is being played out on the tax payer's dime. Why, especially in the hard financial times the City is experiencing, does the City not settle this case? As a senior citizen, I am shocked at the amount of my property taxes, and I do not wish to have that money used frivolously.

Winnie Currie

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