Even though February only has 28 days, it seems to be the longest month of the year. The amount of daylight is still too scarce. Our colors outdoors are generally limited to white and gray and all our free time is spent shoveling.

But the Rockland City Council did its best this week to provide a needed distraction from the February blahs.

The hot topic this winter for the City Council is the Great Tree Massacre of 2010. Citizens were lined up at a meeting this week ready to relate their horror stories of ruthless hordes, armed with chainsaws, slashing and pillaging their spruce, birch, pine, maples, elms and redwoods. OK, maybe not redwoods.

The complaints began a few weeks ago as unsuspecting residents arrived home from work to find that their trees along the roads had been disfigured. Many wondered if vandals had struck. The only thing that would have made it worse would have been if someone had painted a blue line along their property.

There was much debate and some people had some great comments. One woman waxed poetic about a tree that had been cut and how it had always welcomed her.

Thomaston tree guru Pete Lammert may have had the best line of the night. He said trees are like children. You can’t plant them and then not have any involvement with them again for 20 years. If you did that with a child they would be in prison when you reunited with them, he said.

But the best entertainment of the night was unrelated to tree talk.

During the public comment session of the City Council meeting, the first speaker was former Rockland City Councilor Adele Grossman Faber. She chastised the city for failing to prepare better for the tree cutting and for having an inadequate response to the public’s concerns.

Faber also reminded councilors that she had warned them about not spending money on the recreation building until they knew what was needed and what it would cost.

Later in the meeting, during a discussion on whether to spend more money on the recreation center, Councilor Brian Harden made a veiled reference to Faber’s criticism.

Harden considers Faber to be his arch enemy.  Let’s just say that the relationship between the two during her time on the council was about as warm as a February night. Harden refuses to mention Faber’s name but is also incapable of not making a reference to her whenever she speaks. His behavior reminds me of the child in elementary school who will say “teacher, I’m not naming names but the person behind me is bothering me.”

At this week’s meeting, Harden stood up and said he becomes distressed when people tell councilors how stupid they are. He said that rhetoric should stop. Harden blamed the recreation saga on how the plans were developed during the time of three successive city managers — Tom Hall, interim Manager Terry Pinto and current Manager Rosemary Kulow.

Councilor Tom Molloy immediately rose to defend the right of the public to criticize councilors.

“The podium is there for people to exercise their right of free speech,” Molloy said. He said it was uncalled for by Harden to tell people what to say and when to say it.

Harden rose again and said he objected to Molloy trying to discipline him. Harden on three occasions said he would not allow people to call the council stupid.

Molloy pointed out — and a replay of the meeting clearly shows — that Faber did not use the word “stupid” or any similar word. There were no personal insults, just a reminder that they had made a mistake on the recreation center and should not to do it again by allowing Central Maine Power to continue its scorched earth policy in Rockland.

One observer noted after the meeting that three different city managers may have had a role in developing the plans for renovating the recreation center but the final decision rested with the council’s approval to spend the money.

Mayor Deborah McNeil did her best to bring the debate back to the original topic and used her gavel to try to bring order.

Until the late 1980s, the City Council required that the police chief be at every meeting along with the city attorney, city clerk and city manager. Maybe it’s time to return to having the chief at every meeting, armed with a Taser or a baton shaped like a gavel.

This is sweeps month on commercial television. Perhaps the council is simply trying to make its Monday night reality show compete with “NCIS” and other top-rated commercial broadcasts.

Nonetheless, the public appreciates the distraction. And, with apologies to poet Joyce Kilmer, I think I shall never see a tree as lovely as a February council meeting.