Resident activists who requested the ban last October were at the January 21 Takoma Park city council meeting to discuss their proposed ban of gasoline-powered leaf blowers.
Most of the council were careful not to commit to a pro- or anti-ban position. The exception, Ward 3 councilmember Dan Robinson came out in favor of a ban. The mayor and councilmembers kicked the idea around until it had nearly lost its shape, but the activists kept trying to pump the air back into it.
Of course, Dear Readers, the council is just doing its job, exploring potential unforeseen results of a ban, alternatives to a ban, the potential unforeseen results of each alternative, the costs, legalities, the public reaction, and so forth.
Some of the alternatives were to limit certain types of blowers and/or to phase out older, more polluting, more noisy models. It was clear from his testimony, however, that police chief Ronald Ricucci was not eager to enforce such regulation, nor did he have the trained personnel.
Another alternative discussed was the banning of all devices with 2-cycle oil/gasoline engines, the type found in leaf-blowers.
The activists reminded everyone that they weren’t asking for such complications, only a straightforward ban on gasoline-powered leaf-blowers, of which enforcement would be plain and simple.
As for the city’s use of leaf-blowers, Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite testified that though the city owns some, they are not used very much. They are not practical for curbside leaf collection, she said, and are mostly used to blow grass clippings and to help clean up in tree removal operations.
Discontinuing city use of gas blowers would cost an additional $2000 annually, she said.
By the way, Mayor Bruce Williams disclosed that he owns a leaf blower, but he said he doesn’t use it so much for blowing leaves but for cleaning up debris, especially acorns.
The councils sticking points seemed to be these:
1). A reluctance to interfere with residents’ rights to own and use an otherwise perfectly legal tool.
2). The concern that a ban would affect landscape maintenance businesses, making it impossible or more expensive to hire them in the city.
3) The tight focus on leaf-blowers runs counter to the “big-picture” approach the council is trying to make with its study of city priorities.
Your Gilbert appreciates the reluctance to interfere with resident’s rights. This is a respectful libertarian (small “l”) approach that we’d like to see more of from our council. Where was this respect for personal liberty when the council was passing regulations stipulating how residents should trim their shrubs and lawns, paint their houses, and otherwise spruce up their property to the council’s standards?
However, Your Gilbert knows that the libertarian rule-of-thumb in such matters is the maxim “Your rights end at my nose and vice versa.” In other words, if whatever another person is doing doesn’t hurt you, its none of your business.
An untrimmed shrub hurts no one. It comes nowhere near your nose. Pollution does, however – through your nose and into your lungs. And the noise invades your ears. Your Gilbert believes that the right to own a tool does not include the right to blow pollutants and noise at your neighbors.
So, we have no objection to people owning such tools, as long as they contain the noise and pollution exclusively to their own property. That, of course, is impossible unless they use them indoors – which they are welcome to do as far as we are concerned.
As for the landscape businesses – since when does the right of a few to make a buck trump the right of all to breath clean air?
OK, in this country since forever. But, do we have to have that in Takoma Park?
Bangs For The Bucks
You didn’t buy enough raffle tickets, Dear Readers! The Independence Day Committee was forced to panhandle the council for funds.
For years city has been shelling out $8250 annually to the committee, which puts on Takoma Park’s 4th of July parade and fireworks. The day’s festivities are not, as many think, fully funded and organized by the city.
Looks like the city will now be funding more, while leaving most of the work to the committee. The mayor proposed having the cost of the fireworks, and possibly the insurance and other costs covered by city funds.