Poplar trees are not always popular.
Poplar trees are not always popular. Poplars/Shutterstock

Let's take a little trip in the wayback machine to 2007, back to when our lives were easy and carefree, the word "bro" was seldom heard, and ending every third sentence with "...is a thing" was not a thing.

Back then, Ted Schroth was a controversial landlord and—though many of us happy-go-lucky kids didn't realize it at the time—a harbinger of things to come for Capitol Hill. He and his partners bought the Odd Fellows building and jacked up the rent on many of its tenants, effectively evicting a bunch of nonprofits, small businesses, and arts organizations, including Velocity Dance Center—which didn't make him a very popular guy.

From an interview with him I did at the time:

“Look, landlords are easy targets. I’ve got a bulls-eye on my chest. But there’s a new economic reality [for the Odd Fellows Hall and, one gathers, for the city]. I don’t want to sound like a victim, because I’m not, but I can’t afford to subsidize the arts.”

So if we could wave a magic wand and invent a plan that would help you keep arts organizations in the building, what would it be?

“Government incentives to bridge the gap between what the artists can pay and the economic reality, property tax breaks like the ones for 501(c)3s, and more from the end user: Hallie [the proprietress of the Century Ballroom] charges $5 for people to dance—pretty cheap. If her patrons value the arts, they should pay $12 instead of $5.”

Fast-forward to yesterday.

According to Wenatchee World, he was arrested this week for allegedly poisoning 123 poplar trees on someone else's property that apparently blocked a view from one of his developments. A probable cause affidavit alleges that he used $500 worth of salt or 10 pounds per tree.

From the story:

The Chelan Walmart store provided to detectives video of a man who looked like Schroth buying the salt in 81 bags, according to the affidavit. It also states that a woman who cleans a rental residence occupied by Schroth told detectives that she found salt throughout the house when she cleaned on Oct. 29... Owners of Whiskey Ranch [where the poplars were] attempted to remove the salt, which cost them $5,115, the affidavit states. If the trees die, the cost to replace them is estimated at $295,365.

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The story also quotes the affidavit as saying Schroth told detectives he'd stockpiled that salt for de-icing sidewalks during the winter. It appears they didn't believe him and he's headed for arraignment on March 11. In the meantime, he's been released on his own recognizance.

For some of the little guys who got kicked out of Odd Fellows, this news might provide the inner glow of schadenfreude. (Which also makes it a good excuse to listen to this song from Avenue Q, which I try to do at least once a year: "... watching a vegetarian be told she just ate chicken/or watching a frat boy realize just what he put his dick in/being on an elevator when somebody shouts 'hold the door!'/'No!' Schadenfreude! Fuck you lady, that's what stairs are for!")

But for me, it's just another entry in the plus ça change files: Scrappy little culture-makers will find a way (since it relocated to 12th Ave in 2008, Velocity's budget has more than doubled from $333,535 to $783,791) and imperious jackasses (who bounce culture-makers out of buildings when they become an inconvenience) will always be so.