GRANOLAPARK: Mob rule

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

A controversial pesticide ban is on track to become law.

The Takoma Park city council moved July 8 to hold the first of two votes on the proposed Safe Grow Initiative ordinance that would ban resident use of some lawn herbicides and pesticides on private property.

The decision followed 2 hours of public comments.

The first vote is scheduled for Monday July 15 at the regular council meeting.

Hey, Council!

Somebody needs to take the Takoma Park city council to task about this.

Looks like that somebody is Your Gilbert.

Punt

Council, What the hell are you doing? You’ve forgotten your plan, your precedents, and your role.

At the get-go,  when residents presented the Safe Grow petition requesting a pesticide ban, you should have handled it the same way the previous council handled a proposed leaf-blower ban.

Punt it to a committee.

The future sustainability coordinator and possibly the Committee on the Environment are the ones who should be dealing with this.

The sustainability coordinator is (finally) in the pipeline – due to begin in late July. [For those just tuning in, a sustainability coordinator is an environmental expert] So, why are you, the Council, jumping the gun to set environmental priorities and policy?

Big bang theory

YOUR stated goal all along has been to get “THE BIGGEST BANG FOR THE BUCK,” Council. That’s what the former council told the Task Force on Environmental Action when it was charged with presenting the council with a prioritized set of environmental recommendations,”to review the current status of plans and operations related to climate change and the environment and to prepare a road map for achieving the vision elaborated in the Strategic Plan.”

At the top of the Task Force’s recommendations list was the hiring of a sustainability coordinator, “to coordinate the City’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions, implement the five-year plan, and achieve environmental objectives.”

Each department COULD have come up with a plan to reduce it’s footprint – but it would be an inexpert, uncoordinated effort. An expert sustainability coordinator would have a bigger, more informed vision and could come up with a cost effective, comprehensive plan. So, again – BIGGEST BANG FOR THE BUCK.

The long view

That five year plan is from the city’s Strategic Plan which is what you, the council, is supposed to use as a guide. And that guide lists “financial sustainability” right before “environmental sustainability.” In other words, the Strategic Plan tells you to be frugal, budget wisely, and give first priority to measures that save the city money.

The environmental sustainability section says, ” Create and enact a five-year plan for improving the environmental sustainability of the city with corresponding budget. Plan should consider vehicle use, fuel use, facility efficiency, purchasing preference for recyclable and green products, use of alternative, less environmentally damaging products, etc., as well as a review of alternative work schedules for city employees.”

Yes, pesticides could come under “environmentally damaging products,” but the plan clearly calls for pulling all of these things into one package – one that doesn’t gouge the taxpayers.

Apparently, (most of) you councilmembers have erased that memory chip, and even on the verge of meeting with the sustainability coordinator, you’re about to pass a single-focus environmental law without considering where it fits in a bigger picture, or whether it is the biggest bang for the buck.

The popularity contest view

This should not be a matter of which “side” can get the most signatures, or bring more politicians to a council meeting. It’s not a matter of majorities.

This is a matter of environmental sustainability and what’s the best, most cost-effective way to get it.

The council is supposed to be a wise decision-maker, not an “applause-o-meter.” The wise decision here should be to wait and see how a pesticide ban fits into a comprehensive environmental plan.

The unanswerables

Why a pesticide ban and not a gas-powered leaf-blower and lawn mower ban? Are pesticides a bigger threat to health than small-engine pollution? Which is better for children – banning pesticides, or banning stryofoam?  Which exposes residents to more pesticides – lawn treatments or non-organically raised produce?  Is Lyme disease a bigger threat than pesticides?  If so, would funding deer-population control be a better use of tax revenue? What are the relative costs and benefits of building more bike lanes, installing more solar panels, starting a municipal renewable energy generation program, etc.?

You can’t answer these questions, and you shouldn’t try, Council. You are not qualified. You are amateurs, letting emotion and the mob rule your actions.

So, stop this nonsense and get back to the sensible plan. The city’s sustainability contractor comes on board in late July. Put a hold on the pesticide ban, add it to the list of proposed actions, and charge the experts with making recommendations within a comprehensive plan – same as with the Environmental Action Task Force.

And those bangs are for . . . ?

Council, you’ve been making some big bangs – now try to remember the rest of the phrase.

– Gilbert

PS. Dear Readers, if you agree with this, please forward to your councilmember and the mayor: http://www.takomaparkmd.gov/citycouncil/contact

 

 

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About the Author

Gilbert
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.

2 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Mob rule"

  1. Christina FitzPatrick | July 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm |

    I have a question for Gilbert. In the July 20 column you said that the environmental coordinator was in the pipeline, due to begin at the end of July. I just had an exchange with Daryl Braithwaite form the city who said that while there was a recommendation for the city to hire a coordinator, the Council did not put it in the budget, and tehre are no specific plans to do so. I’m trying to figure out what the deal is, and where this discrepancy comes from. Do you know?
    Thanks,
    Christina FitzPatrick

  2. The short answer is this: they hired a contractor, not a staff environmental coordinator.

    The Task Force on Environmental Action did recommend hiring a coordinator. The council and staff dithered over many aspects of this, including “how do we give an enviro-coordinator a job description without knowing what an enviro-coordinator does?” There was also reluctance to establish a new permanent position, not knowing if the work would even amount to a full-time job.

    So, they engaged a contractor, the Brendle Group. There will be a presentation by them this evening, Monday, July 29, 7 – 9 pm at the city council auditorium.

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