Leaf Blowers, Yet Again

Will we deal with the leaf blower issue once and for all? Or is there no end in sight?

We have a special Town Meeting scheduled for October 10th to once again consider the "leaf blower ban" passed by the last Town Meeting.

When this article came up at Town Meeting last, I voted against it.

I felt then, and still feel now, that a ban is too severe a method to deal with the problems that leaf blowers have caused.

Those problems are real.

We have seen examples of leaf blowers being used in ways that do infringe upon other peoples rights.

People have legitimate, if still hotly debated, concerns over pollution.

People have legitimate reasons for being opposed to the noise created when these devices are used in close proximity (often less than a few feet) from their home.

There is a legitimate issue involved in curbing the practice of leaf blower operators "sweeping" debris into public streets, in violation of (but largely unenforceable) town law.

However I do not feel - it has not been proven to me yet - that these real concerns prevent leaf blowers from being used responsibly, in a way that avoids these issues.

Because of this, I believe that a ban (or even a seasonal restriction) should not be the preferred method of dealing with these issues.

So what should we do? I approach this issue with the following thoughts:

If we simply repeal this ban as the opponents want, and not replace it with something that addresses the issues people have, we’ll be right back dealing with this issue again very soon.

Those that want to see the problems addressed are not going to give up and walk away, just because they lose this round.

If we leave this ban in place, the opponents are also not going to stop trying to repeal it.

We will have more articles introduced to overturn the bylaw, more special Town Meetings, and so on.

Town Meeting must pass something that deals with the real issues people do have, but tempers the approach so that we manage to curb the behavior that needs to be addressed, while permitting the responsible use of these machines.

Based on my discussions with supporters and opponents of the ban, I believe that the supporters are willing to accept a different approach, something other than a ban.

However, were we to repeal this "ban," I am not confident that opponents would accept any future restrictions.

We are talking about regulating the use of a machine, and there is an inherent interest among many, especially the landscape businesses, to avoid any regulation.

So long as this law is in place they are motivated to come to the table and work something out.

Once the current law is repealed, they lose that motivation.

It is my intent to not vote to repeal the bylaw, until such a solution is passed.

I hope to see a solution proposed at this special Town Meeting that addresses the issues people have, while eliminating anything like a ban.

If we don’t come up with a solution that adequately deals with the issues people have, we’ll be faced with this debate for the foreseeable future, until we do.

And if we repeal this ban without a solution, we’ll find it even more difficult to bring the necessary parties to the table, and put this issue behind us for good.

If you have thoughts or ideas on this, please share them with me. I am interested, and I want to see a solution - more importantly an end - to this predicament.

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Tim September 13, 2012 at 02:49 AM
WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP We waited together for the cowards to come Outgunned and outnumbered but we wouldn’t run No mercy, no quarter They’ll pay for their sins Now lower the cannons the battle begins We waited together for the cowards to come Outgunned and outnumbered but we wouldn’t run No mercy, no quarter They’ll pay for their sins Now lower the cannons the battle begins
SteveM September 13, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Honestly, this is getting ridiculous. Whether you agree with the ban or you don't ENOUGH. We are talking about a leaf blower, during limited months, specific to a certain type of power (gas). Stop wasting money, time, and the town's reputation in pursuing this further. At this point, whether you are for the ban or against - ITS REALLY NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL. Give it a rest.
gbc September 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Well, apparently it is not enough. And it IS that big of a deal to a significant number of people. Whether you agree or disagree, when a huge number of people feel this strongly on both sides of an issue, and when livelihoods are affected, then the argument will continue until a resolution satisfactory to both major factions is discovered. It's at times like these, when we are exercising our right to dissent or lobby, that we are most American. We have many rights, but among them is not the right to determine what should or shouldn't be important to others, and especially not the right to determine what they can or cannot protest and organize around. When a thousand or more of our neighbors hold a dissenting opinion, it shouldn't be considered trivial or frivolous.
Tim September 13, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Well Stated Gwen!!! This is going to be a very interesting night at town hall . A few people are going to be held accounted and attendence will be Taken....
Andrew W. September 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM
<politisnark>Wes, this is unnecessarily reasonable. A willingness to appreciate both sides to an issue has no place in our politics!</politisnark> You mention the enforceability issue, and as someone who's half-heartedly supported a ban (I'm still a relatively new resident, and while I'm generally against bans, my experience with blowers here has been pretty negative), I feel like the whole issue is ultimately moot, because I don't see it being well-enforced. Enforcement has a few elements to it. 1) There has to be a ban. 2) There has to be an authority willing and able to exact the prescribed punishment. 3) The punishment must have a value greater than the banned activity. 4) The ban has to be viewed as legitimate, in particular through the predictable, consistent application of the punishment. As I understand it, 2, 3, and 4 aren't practicable, except perhaps in the case of landscaping companies. Police won't prioritize the leaf blower ban above other responsibilities; the punishment isn't definite or severe enough to keep individuals from taking a chance; and the ban will be inconsistently applied to certain groups (landscaping companies). I'd compare it to not feeding the meter. Police don't really care to notice. People are always willing to take a chance. And contractors often just see it as a cost of doing business.
Cornelius Cob September 13, 2012 at 01:38 PM
What is the point of a new law if it can't be enforced? The police start off issuing warnings. The fines are so small it isn't worth the police officer's time (paperwork). In the end, no one pays any attention to the ban. This story has played out exactly the same way, time and time again, everywhere leaf blowers were banned. The solution is limiting hours of operation and noise to less than 65 dB(A) -- quieter gas powered leaf blowers (65 dB) have been available since 1995. Menlo Park, CA, rescinded their ban on gas powered leaf blowers after years of homeowner complaints, police frustration and enforcement expense. They ended up with -- between 8-5pm, 65dB or less. More details below: http://www.leafblowernoise.com/MENLO%20PARK%20MUNICIPAL%20CODE.pdf Manhattan Beach went the other way and made it a criminal offense ($1000 fine and possible 6 months in jail). This is sure to fail. http://manhattanbeach.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-leave-hard-workers-alone
Wind Dummy 25 September 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
This is so predictable as sanely stated by CC. Rules in place for all are suddenly obsolete? So everyone is inconvenienced because of an isolated issue? Never mind the made up reasons trashing the town regs, it's a blatant dodge. I suggest revisiting the original petition. Why? When? & where. I'll bet you all 8 bucks this is neighbor on neighbor. This has become is an opportunity to convolute, and a unnecessary light on the town. Return to the source and try solving it there. Stand by the regs or we lose this opportunity to compromise on minor problems. Don't let this slip into screamland, it just sets up the next issue for failure. If anything, outside the box, my suggestion for you is phase in the quieter tools if feasible, maybe tweak the hours a little. First return to the origin and backwards solve.
Stephen September 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM
This is exactly right. Jeremy Marin offered the "money shot" at Town Meeting, that showed two guys raising a dust cloud from his neighbor's property onto Marin's raised vegetable garden. Marin then claimed that this caused his vegetables to become poisoned with lead dust from the peel paint on the neighbor's garage. Yet he offered no proof of an easily verifiable problem, he offered no reason this neighbor problem of HIS required the entire town to do something about. These local ordinances that depend on neighbors for complaints to the police destroy community. The way these local, annoyance bylaws work is that if you have a sensitive neighbor, they will call the police without approaching you or the landscape company first, to stop whatever behavior they find annoying. The police might ignore them at first, but we have all seen or heard stories where the continuing, escalating calls result in a police visit and eventually a fine, $200 for using a gp leaf blower.
Cornelius Cob September 13, 2012 at 04:05 PM
"I want to see a solution - more importantly an end - to this predicament." On October 10 make sure a representative from the Arlington Police has a chance to speak. They are the ones that have to deal with all the calls, warnings and fines. The town meeting members get to walk away after their vote -- the cops get stuck with the extra work load -- that never ends if you impose a ban.
Wind Dummy 25 September 13, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Figures...Well if that's true Steve, Mr Martin owes everyone some explanations, or everyone a washed tomato. Plus some "stink eyes" for usurping the chain and fooling with the flow of natural order. What a mess. Still I think unfortunately, the toothpaste is out of the tube on this one.
Cornelius Cob September 13, 2012 at 07:09 PM
There are 100's of cities and towns across America with Leaf Blower bans or restrictions. Some have been in place for years. The problem is there are thousands of people pissed at the way landscapers use/abuse these tools. There are thousands of Jeremy Marin's out there. That is why the ban passed in Arlington and all the other towns (e.g. Brookline). The ORIGIN of the problem is in how landscapers blow crap on to other people's properties like it's their constitutional right to be dick heads.
Cornelius Cob September 13, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Wind -- I did an little digging and found the first person to start the anti leaf blower movement. It was Peter Graves -- remember Mission Impossible -- back in the late 1990's in California. Graves and others like Meredith Baxter (Family Ties) managed to get leaf blowers banned in 20 communities in California.
Wes Beal September 13, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Thanks for the responses, folks. If like me you believe the only way this issue can be laid to rest is to reach an agreement that permits the responsible use of these machines, while answering the need to prevent some from being so inconsiderate that a ban has been considered, then I urge you to contact your Town Meeting Members in advance of the Special Town Meeting on October 10th and communicate this to them. I believe I can assure you that the Town Meeting Members I know want to see this issue settled in a way that reflects the will of the community. Most of us feel there are plenty of other important things to devote our time to, besides just leaf blowers, and would like to make the right decision this October. Each precinct in Arlington should have, unless no one has stepped up to take the job, 12 Town Meeting Members. That's pretty incredible when you think about it. Twelve members per precinct. I think there are this many because citizens are meant to have at least a couple Town Meeting Members representing their precint that they know personally. Times have changed a lot over the years, and we tend to not know as many neighbors as we used to. Don't let that stop you though. Look up who your members are, and reach out to them. The list is kept on the town website, here: http://www.arlingtonma.gov/public_documents/ArlingtonMA_TownMeet/2012_TMMembers.pdf
tpfx September 13, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I thought the point to having a law that can't be enforced all of the time is that it typically would not have to be enforced; most would choose to follow the law. And so it would be getting results just by being there.
I. M. Fedup September 14, 2012 at 01:48 PM
A solution: Ban all leaf blowers. One of the biggest health problems in our society id obesity. without the leaf blowers, people would have to actually RAKE leaves themselves , thus producing much needed exercise. If they need help in raking or removing the leaves, they could hire neighborhood kids to assist with the project.....this produces a boost in the neighborhood economy, as well as necessitating communication between neighbors. This communication usually results in increased good will....a win/win situation!
I. M. Fedup September 14, 2012 at 01:50 PM
...the first line in my previous comment should read "is"...not "id"....big fingers, small keyboard.
dawn September 14, 2012 at 05:15 PM
The police won't be responsible for enforcing the ban, the Board of Health will, which is ironic since they don't feel that gas powered leaf blowers are a health hazard. The issue goes far beyond simply raking vs. leaf blowing. To the people who say "use a rake"...you first! Go be a landscaper for a day and rake 15 yards....And to those who hate the sound...are you going to enjoy the sound of a gas powered generator used to run an electric leaf blower? Bottom line is this, set time limits for their use and stop trying to make this about the environment. Allowing the use with restrictions will appease all parties involved.
Wes Beal September 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Hi Dawn, and thanks for the response. Do you think landscape companies would accept a time limit? (Serious question) Ultimately, the coup de grace in this issue I think is the issue of material, including (large amounts of) dust being deposited on other peoples property. We also need to curb the practice of debris being "swept"into the streets where it ultimately contributes to clogging up storm drains.
Tim September 15, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Hi Wes being a landscaper myself I would obey a time limit. If you are really concerned you should look into MBTA buses . They bring up way more dust then leaf blowers . Oh wait let's stop the Thompson school rebuild project . There is a ton of dust and who knows what coming out of that soil , seeing that there was a farm down there once upon a time . Who knows what they used way back when . I see Mr Marin is a soil expert that he knows it was the leaf blowers that brought lead onto his tomatoes . Give me a break ..
Donald Mei September 16, 2012 at 05:21 AM
We already have noise laws. Why should they apply any differently to leaf blowers than to a gas powered air compressor running air nailers at a job site?
dawn September 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM
Yes Wes, I do think the landscapers would be fine with it, and I believe that since I have talked to many of them. Why should leaf blowers be treated differently than compressors, well, because no one placed a ban on compressors or complained. But that goes to my argument of why this ban should never have been considered...because it opens the door to people complaining and banning everything that annoys them...motorcycles, lawnmowers, small crying children, radios, etc. Debris being swept into the street is already been addressed, if no one enforces it, then take it up with those who should be enforcing it, dont ban blowers from everyone. The way I see it, there are people who continually drive drunk, despite existing laws...so should we ban cars for everyone? Of course not, that would be stupid. This ban was created because of a couple neighbors inability to resolve issues, lets not punish everyone, especially the small business owners (landscapers) of this town. People have a right to maintain their own property their own way, let's stop running peoples lives!
MK September 18, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Thanks Dawn. I agree with your comment. The ban is silly. Neighbors should resolve issues between themselves and not include the rest of the town. Like you said, this will open a Pandora's box of what can be banned or not banned. Over-regulation now tramples the use of common sense. Besides, the money spent on this issue can and should be spent on better things.


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