A different kind of city editor

Raleigh, N.C., is known as the City of Oaks. The city government includes an Urban Forestry Division, and the city’s seal is festooned with leaves. On New Year’s Eve, a giant acorn is dropped downtown as thousands ring in the new year.

This town loves its trees.

Raleigh has a harder time with its words, however. A recent story in The News & Observer noted that the city’s tree ordinance is riddled with jargon. Terms such as “critical root zone” and “basal area ratio” make it hard for people to understand what they can and cannot do to trees. Even the mayor, a lawyer with an Ivy League education, is frustrated.

Perhaps some editing would help. Allow me to suggest that Raleigh hire a “city editor” to translate all government jargon into plain English. The first task would be to prune the tree ordinance.

I’m confident that “city editor” would be a full-time job. And thanks to recent decisions by McClatchy, there are plenty of talented editors in the area to choose from.


One Comment

  1. I’m a reporter in a town that is drafting its first tree ordinance. For about eight months, I’ve had to sit through meeting about critical root zones, optimum root zones, etc. etc. etc.

    They’ve simplified the ordinance over and over again, removing definitions and consolidating others – and it hasn’t yet been passed or been up for a vote – because of fear of confusing developers.

    But it has kind of stripped the ordinance of its original might. I am, however, ALL for a translator to sit at planning and zoning meetings as a go-between for the public and the planners, who are often real-life caricatures.

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