Ballad of Upholding the Tree Ordinance Leading up to the Fayetteville Tree Sit of 2000
In April of 2000 Patricia attended a planning commission meeting for fayetteville
The commissioners wanted public input on the proposal Kohl’s department store made
They wanted to violated our brand new tree ordinance
Instead of changing the architecture of their store.
Seems like a no brainer but that is how the government behaved in those days under Mayor Hanna’s leadership
30 people attended that meeting and 11 spoke against the plan, including Patricia Mikkelson who had never been involved with government issues in her life.
The commissioners said they’d think about what we said,
Patricia asked Fran Alexander why they didn’t listen to the people and make a decision then and there.
Fran said “They will keep having meetings that are hard to find out about until no one shows up to protest and then they’d do what Kohl’s wanted”.
Patricia said, “There is no way they are going to do that cause that’s not fair.”
How do I find out about the meetings so i can let people know?”
She gave me the instructions and I followed her wise advice.
And Patricia found out the dates of every meeting where they would discuss the issue and the numbers of people who attended each meeting increased each time.
Paula Marinoni and Barbara Moorman were invaluable as Patricia’s mentors in this effort. Paula said, “Use the slogan uphold the Tree ordinance” instead of save the trees
because we want to involve all kinds of people and most people want to uphold the law. People woke up from their slumber and got involved.Activists, working class people, spiritual leaders, lawyers, professors, other professionals, young and old, white and people of color, gay and straight–all united for this common cause.
Patricia gathered emails of people who were interested in the issue
She sent out notifications about updates including the upcoming meetings. She held meetings to encourage and empower people to do what they felt inspired to do.
People sent the emails to their mailing lists
Mary Alice Serafini of the League of women’s voters Dick Bennett of Omni had large lists which were super helpful.
The news spread like wildfire and people were very upset and wanted to help.
The Morning News and Arkansas Democrat Gazette Covered the story well often with front page pictures that got a lot of attention
For example they covered the sign making party that Patricia held and Marquette and Linda Ralston came and helped with and their children came,
Patricia was the only demonstrator at the first city council meeting,
But the paper put her on the front page with her sign saying “uphold the tree ordinance” and the reporter neglected to say there was only one demonstrator
More and more people got creative and initiated various events
Joannie Conners organized a creative rally that got front page coverage.
Julia Butterfly Hill came down from the tree and
The first place that she spoke was U of A at an event organized by Marquette Bruce
Mary Lightheart listened to Julia’s lecture and was inspired
That is why she came to the2nd City Council meeting and was willing to do a tree sit.
A week before the fateful city council meeting Susanna _________ called Patricia saying,
“If they vote to violate the tree ordinance, I will be willing to do civil disobedience to draw attention to the fact that they are going against the people’s wishes.
200 plus people showed up in support of the tree ordinance
And over 30 people shared their valid reasons Only 3 spoke in favor so it was clear what the public really wanted the Fayetteville government to do
At the very end the meeting, after Mayor Hannah broke the tie and the law was destined to be violated, Bob Jordan stood up in front everyone and said
“If you want to do something constructive to show the government that we want them to listen to us, come to the meeting in the room I have reserved.”
Then the organization We’ve Had Enough was born and lawyers, professors and other professionals
united to continue the battle to uphold the tree ordinance. Including the remember in November campaign to oust Mayor Hanna
Mary Lightheart told patricia after the City Council meeting that she would be willing to climb a tree to save them.
Patricia went home and called and emailed people telling them to meet behind Home Depot where trees that were going to be cut down were located.
5 women: Joannie Conners, Deborah Byron, Susanah_________, Mary Lightheart and patricia
Showed up and hoisted Mary int he tree
Patricia notified the press and the large email group that she had developed,
Without any other efforts on her part, people started showing up and helping
Tom Maringer made a yellow hammock so Mary could be more comfortable and other people provide food and other necessities. The story of the tree sit is yet another phase of the story that won’t be told in this song cause it willb e too long.
The lawyer Anita Schnee wrote the following words in a recommendation she wrote for Patricia“Patricia sparked the resistance movement at its beginning stages. It was she who began organizing against the city’s connivance at tree-preservation ordinance violations in favor of a huge mall development. The resistance grew to include tree-sit action and substantial civil disobedience of over twenty people. Needless to say her efforts were unpaid and largely unrecognized.
Here are some names of other people I haven’t mentioned who who helped before, during and after the tree sit: City Council members Lioneld Jordan, Randy Zurcher, and another I can’t remember. Stephen Vallus, Robert Kersbergen, David Garcia, Nancy Maier, Donna and Kelly Mulholland, Roc Pursley, Dan Coody, Rev. Lloyd Grisham, Ginny Masulo, Al Vick, Chris Mikkelson, Mahriyanna Mikkelson, Marquette Bruce’s son, the late Nancy Maier, Martha Kay,and all the people who joined the march, attended rallies, donated, organized and supported the Tree Aid concert, voted for a new government, helped with Dan Coody’s campaign, supported Mary while she was in the tree, and St Paul’s Episcopal church which provided a space for activists to meet. Thank you all!
May the stories of the heroes who worked together on this effort be told often and well
Their amazing creativity, dedication and commitment shines brightly to us all.
May we all be inspired by the fact that when we work together we can do the impossible and achieve goals we would never believe that we could do.
Let us build healthy community, reconcile with each other and find common ground so we can help Fayetteville and the world be a place where all life thrives.
Here are some resources:
Article about the impact of the Tree sit.
Anita Schnees Recommendation for a job that Patricia was applying for that talks about her involvement in the upholding the tree ordinance efforts.
I met Ms. Mikkelson over a year ago, when, as a lawyer, I was called on to mediate diverse grassroots resistance to an unlawful development project in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she and I live. …Patricia sparked the resistance movement at its beginning stages. It was she who began organizing against the city’s connivance at tree-preservation ordinance violations in favor of a huge mall development. The resistance grew to include tree-sit action and substantial civil disobedience of over twenty people.
Through a protracted and tense summer and at great personal cost, Patricia applied her considerable talents wherever she was needed. She initiated and participated in email bulletin boards and chat-lists that were vital in keeping communication lines open, when fast-moving events threatened to overwhelm opposition. She responded to demands at all hours; this was important when the bulldozers were mobilizing under cover of darkness. Moreover, endurance became important when the tree sit failed and the development proceeded. Patricia had that endurance>
Eventually, the voters deposed the sitting mayor and even he conceded that he lost because of the tree fight. Further, due to intense community participation and oversight, the applicable tree ordinances have just been redrafted to remove some of the ambiguities that countenanced the violations in the first instance.
Had the resistance collapsed when the trees fell, we might still be suffering under the prior administration. But the resistance continued into the November elections, and the redrafting was due in part to Patricia’s substantial efforts. Needless to say, her efforts were unpaid and, especially regrettably, largely unrecognized.
Subsequently, Patricia and I have talked at length. Based on those conversations and my observation, I can assert that her faith in community action seems to flow from an inexhaustible well. I believe she has the vision and the commitment to work on national issues. She has the experience, the will, and the philosophical mettle to stay flexible and resourceful, in the face of what seems to be overwhelmingly big money interests. She is the right person for the job.
Melody of song: She’ll Be Coming Around The MountainLyrics to song written by Patricia Mikkelson, who is starting the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage near Kingston, Arkansas www.VeganUtopiaEcovillage.com