Safe Grow Zone proponents testify at May 20 Takoma Park public hearing.


The summer camp Your Gilbert attended as a youth had movie nights, but it only had one movie, “The Alexander Graham Bell Story” starring Don Ameche.

We saw it so many times that by the end of summer, we preferred sitting outside in the rain and mosquitoes.

We have the same feeling about the Safe Grow Zone Initiative’s dog-and-pony show. It’s the same production whenever the initiative is duscussed at Takoma Park city council meetings. However, the repeated (and repeated, and repeated) citizen statements that “chemicals are bad!” don’t have anything like Don Ameche spilling acid on his pants. Unfortunately.

Speaker in favor of Safe Grow Zone, May 20.

Speaker in favor of Safe Grow Zone, May 20.

“The Safe Grow Zone Initiative,”if you haven’t been following this, is the happy-sounding euphemism for “pesticide/herbicide ban.” It is likely to become a Takoma Park law.

Most of the council is leaning in favor of it, and council member Seth Grimes helped re-write the proposed law for the latest public hearing May 20.

Goodness knows, it needed re-writing. Up until now, the proponents have barely responded to criticisms, only piling on the “chemicals are bad” statements, as if burying the critics in rhetoric would drown out the cry of “who is going to enforce this and how are we going to pay for it?” They don’t seem to understand that most people are on their side, they just want to work out the practicalities.


Takoma Park city councilmember Seth Grimes.

Grumpy compromise

The latest version, proponents say (grumpily), is a compromise. It bans certain pesticide/herbicide use only on lawns. “The language is silent on shrubbery,” quipped councilmember Tim Male.

Being the city council, OF COURSE, they got in the weeds – so to speak – over what defines a “lawn.”

Ken Sigman, Takoma Park city attorney.

Ken Sigman, Takoma Park city attorney.

“Whether you have to mow it,” said city attorney Ken Sigman.

Even with the compromise, council members and staff have qualms about the cost and the difficulty of enforcement and administration.

Safe Grow Zone proponents testify at May 20 Takoma Park public hearing.

Safe Grow Zone proponents testify at May 20 Takoma Park public hearing.

Easy or hard

Banning only lawn-care company use of some products would be a LOT easier (and cheaper) to administer than banning individual resident use, said acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow, talking about the potential financial impact.

It would be easy to contact lawn companies and tell them what chemicals not to use, she said.” It wouldn’t take the kind of staff” needed to enforce restrictions “property to property,” process waivers, and so forth, if the ban policed residents, too. To do all that, she said, the city would end up needing a staff person. Even so, it would be an additional burden on existing staff.

That new staff person might be a “vegetation specialist” Ludlow suggested. Similar to the city arborist, the vegetation specialist would deal with not only pesticide/herbicide bans but nuisance vegetation such as bamboo.


Acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow describes Safe Grow Zone’s financial impact.

Now that’s service!

Heck, let’s just put the city in charge of all the lawns! Public Works can do all the mowing, weeding, trimming, planting, pest and weed controlling – using all-organic, non-polluting, sustainable, livable methods.

City-provided yard -care and landscaping? Why not? Isn’t that why we pay taxes?

Sneaky principle

The Precautionary Principle backs us up on this. The P.P. could back up almost anything.

What is the P.P., you ask?

This is something they are slipping into the Safe Grow Resolution, but the implications reach far, far beyond lawns.

It says “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” Further, in applying the Precautionary Principal, “the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.”

Think about that, and then think about activities that in some residents’ minds even if not fully scientifically established, be a health or environmental threat: gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf-blowers, charcoal grills, wood- burning fires, tobacco smoke, perfume, gas-powered automobiles, air-conditioning, polyester-fabric clothing, Western medicine, meat, factory-farm products, dairy products, leather, soy products, fluoridated water, pets, religion, capitalism, men.

You know, Dear Readers, that you could find more than one progressive Takoma Parkian who thinks that at least one of these should be banned.

In fact, Your Gilbert is stoked to see how quickly the city can ban gas-powered mowers and leaf-blowers if this Precautionary Principle sneaks in the back door.

– Gilbert



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About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

1 Comment on "GRANOLAPARK: No acid"

  1. Steve Davies | June 12, 2013 at 11:24 am |

    Bring on the Precautionary Principle!

Comments are closed.