GRANOLAPARK: Can we all just get a lawn?


Dear Readers,

Oddly, the people who claim that a drop of Roundup applied on your crabgrass will lower their child’s IQ a point – denying her the life as an ivy-league-schooled lawyer her parents have planned – are happy to irradiate her brain with smart meter radio waves.

We expected the room of pesticide-ban fans to gasp in horror when the Takoma Park city council nodded agreement with a PEPCO presentation on its “Energy Wise Rewards” program. The program includes universal upgrades to smart meters, which, to some, have alarming features.

No eyebrows

Smart meters communicate with PEPCO via pulsed radio frequency radiation, which some people claim to be a health hazard – you know, the sort that lowers your child’s IQ by one point. Ahem. They also give Big Brother PEPCO the ability to remotely regulate your thermostat, lowering or turning off your AC or heat. Some people are worried about privacy and security, too. But, not one eyebrow was raised on the dais or in the auditorium.

Maybe the anti-smart-meter and anti-pesticide groups are different sets of wing-nuts. After the Smart Growth issue is settled, we may have a new crowd of One-Issue-Wonders filling the council auditorium seats.

Stepping out tonight

Tonight the so-called Safe Grow Initiative Ordinance will take another big step. It is on the work-session agenda. In a work-session the council talks about an issue or a proposed law among themselves. They pick apart or revise whatever ordinance has been drafted so far.


FORTUNATELY, there is no public comment allowed at work sessions. So, Your Gilbert will not have to sit though yet another an endless line of Safe Grow supporters, testifying again (and again, and again) how EVIL pesticides are. As if hammering on that point is going to change any minds at this point.

UNFORTUNATELY, the public is allowed to make comments at the start of the meeting.

HOWEVER, indications are that the Safe Grow folks will take the refreshing tactic of making one simple statement – with a big chorus of applause. Safe Grow co-founder Catherine Cummings wrote this weekend to community email lists, “we will need “clappers,” as many people to stand and clap when Julie and I say, “‘Our supporters are here to urge you to pass Safe Grow to prohibit the use of cosmetic lawn pesticides in Takoma Park'”

So, maybe the council and Your Gilbert have a chance of getting to bed on time tonight.


New draft

A close-to-final draft will probably come out of this session. The pesticide-ban ordinance is tentatively due for a first (of two) votes July 15.

Councilmember Tim Male has submitted a revised draft for tonight’s discussion. He said he has addressed concerns raised in public hearings.

He discusses the changes in a blog posting.


Male claims to have addressed concerns raised in public hearings, but it seems to Gilbert his changes are more crafted to get around criticisms rather then respond to them. Sometimes he even seems to be prodding the critics.

Most mind-boggling is his turnaround on the issue of commercial pesticide application. Concern about commercial application was Safe Grow’s introduction to the city. “Little yellow signs” were the bugaboo.

Opponents have proposed making the ban apply only to commercial applications. It is the most often mentioned concern, they say. It would be much cheaper and easier to enforce – and probably the most effective action to reduce pesticides.

Male “addresses” this by saying “We’ve heard a request for commercial applicators to be treated differently.  I think doing so is a mistake.  These businesses are trained to use pesticides whereas average residents are not.”

So, now commercial applications are GOOD and our health is safe in the hands of lawn-care workers! Then, what was the problem in the first place?


Middle ground?

The pesticide opposition, as voiced by residents Hubert Chang and Carter Doughtery is frustrated. As Doughtery wrote in an open email, Safe Grow supporters have offered “no hint of compromise despite the willingness of the opponents to find a middle ground.”

This is not entirely true. Safe Grow’s biggest compromise was to eliminate all but lawns from the ban. Gardens, forested areas, etc. are exempted.

Other than that and a few minor tinkerings, however, Gilbert has to agree that the Safe Grow folks have been curiously deaf to the opposition. The co-founders of the movement Julie Taddeo and Catherine Cummings seemed primed from the beginning to battle it out with global chemical-manufacturing corporations. They found themselves opposed not by Monsanto, but by their neighbors, for which they seemed unprepared.


The “opposition” is more like a “compromisition.” They stress that they agree with Safe Grow goals, just not the method. They’ve offered several alternatives and suggestions, and they’ve raised questions about cost, enforcement, and other practicalities.

At what cost?

Safe Grow fans have blithely ignored the cost to taxpayers. As the city attorney’s report says,”the City probably will require additional staffing to respond to complaints, issue citations, and testify in court. The employee may need special education or training to be able to conduct chemical tests, or the City may have to procure private laboratory services. The City will also incur legal fees for advice provided to the enforcement officer and the prosecution of municipal infraction citations in court.”

Those are just the costs of enforcement. There will also be costs for paperwork, administration, and education. It’s not like the city staff is sitting around waiting for something to do. They already have full duties. Additional duties require more time and more staff – not to mention infrastructure: desks, computers, offices, etc.

The city figures the fiscal impact to be $7,000 next year, $13,000 in 2016, and $28,000 in future years. We think that is understated. We don’t see how even one additional staff member can be added for a mere $28,000.

Go slow

We hope the council majority has the sense go slow with Safe Grow. Many genuine compromises have been suggested – such as making it an educational effort, or banning only commercial applications. These would have wider community approval than the current draft ordinance – something to consider in an election year.

– Gilbert


Greenman photo by ERIC BOND

Greenman photo by ERIC BOND


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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.

11 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Can we all just get a lawn?"

  1. Steve Davies | July 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

    I can’t understand how we as a city tolerate the use of Tasers by our police force

  2. Scott Schang | July 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm |

    Great post, Gilbert. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the public comments made last night during the public comment period. My sense is they were not quite as succinct as you’d hoped.

  3. TWO freekin’ hours of public comments! Verbal waterboarding.

  4. Steve Davies | July 9, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

    The council has shown that it will not take action unless LOTS of people show up and hoot and holler (remember the “Impeach Bush-Cheney” resolution?) So they created the conditions for these types of displays

    They’re definitely earning their paltry salaries now

  5. Steve Davies | July 10, 2013 at 11:37 am |

    Perhaps if I post this question here, I’ll get an answer. My emails to council members and staff have so far elicited no response. (If this was covered at the recent council meeting, Gilbert, let us know.)

    Will the ordinance as proposed prohibit the city or its contractors from spraying the vegetation around the street trees planted by the city? It may be that little spraying takes place there, but I have seen it done in the past. If the ordinance allows that type of herbicide use, I have to question the logic of it (both the spraying and the ordinance), because pedestrians and animals would be affected at least as much by that as they would be from any lawn application.

  6. Steve Davies | July 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

    Here’s a response from Daryl Braithwaite:

    We do not apply any pesticides by City staff on any park or green space. We do have pesticide applications through licensed contractors for invasive species control in some of our open space areas.

    I am not aware of any treatment done by the City or our contractors on the mulch circle that surrounds a tree planted int he right of way. I can’t think of any reason why any treatment to the mulch circle would be needed.

    The SGZ in its current form would prohibit use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on lawn areas in both the private property and City right of way.

  7. Steve Davies | July 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

    And here’s a response from arborist Todd Bolton (Both his and Daryl’s emails went automatically to my Trash folder, and I just found them) Thanks to both for responding


    We don’t use herbicides, except maybe vinegar at some point, in the mulch rings around trees. Although I have not read the proposed ordinance recently I believe it would forbid the use of the herbicides on the list if we did want to in the future.


  8. Steve,

    Thanks for the reportage. Look for a Voice article about a _completely_ different alternative to herbicides in the near future!

  9. Steve Davies | July 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

    Very cool. I look forward to it

  10. Steve Davies | July 17, 2013 at 10:16 am |

    We are all breathlessly awaiting your account of Monday’s meeting I heard the vote was unanimous

Comments are closed.