Editor: I just wanted to update Sonoma on the status of a possible leaf blower ban following the lengthy and enormously disappointing Community Services and Environment Commission Public Forum last week.
As a commission, (with the exception of my daughter Sarah who sits on the CSEC as a youth rep) I felt the CSEC was not interested in entertaining the idea of any kind of a ban – partial or otherwise. Even after Dave Waldron, one of the largest and most respected landscapers in town in terms of personal accountability admitted to us that his revenue would go UP with a ban in place and that most landscapers hate blowers, the CSEC seemed to have come prepared with their own “no ban is a good plan” agenda.
No mention in the City’s own staff report or in the CSEC discussion of Cittaslow whatsoever. I’m beginning to think this designation means nothing to city staff or the CSEC who, especially public works, avoided talking about it like an illegitimate child sent to live with distant relatives.
The health concerns – both respiratory and noise exposure – expressed by a number of senior citizens were either brushed aside or placed under the general umbrella of “ag pollution.”
The landscapers themselves came up with more creative and pro-active solutions than the CSEC – such as trying out a total ban in the City for a year and seeing what the impacts are and/or requiring that any landscaper operating within City limits have a sign on their truck with a name, business license and phone number.
Lots of unfounded knee-jerk comments made by CSEC commissioners about not wanting to burden the police dept with additional enforcement, increasing water consumption and passing on the added cost to those poor, McMansion dwelling customers who just want a good value for their dollar.
In my “group” I brought up a point about shared resources such as air and water and the space through which noise travels as being a hidden subsidy (free dumping ground for byproducts of leaf blowers). The CSEC as a commission seemed to have very little grasp in general about how environmental policies get made. For example, without air quality standards, I’m sure no one would be jumping up and down to pay to get their vehicles smogged, yet we all benefit from having these laws in place.
In general, the CSEC seemed to focus on everything but the health and well-being of the residents of Sonoma and to defend, blindly, a practice that has no real merit other than employment for a very few operators and an aesthetic that is no longer viable or healthy in the times we live in. At one point Sarah asked, “Why all this fear around leaves?”
Ideas generated by the CSEC were vague and nearly impossible to implement – they ranged from a nebulous public outreach and education program, a phased approach to having all leaf blowers upgraded to newer models – even individually owned machines – within City limits and then, my favorite, asking operators if they would kindly stop what they are doing. Milenka Bates gave the Haaga sweeper a lukewarm endorsement and then listed all of its faults.
I hope the City Council will, as they have done on several recent occasions, ignore the recommendations of the CSEC and make their own decision based on public letters, testimonials, etc.