Last night, the San Mateo City Council voted 3-2 to continue a discussion about banning all gas-powered leaf blowers in the City of San Mateo. However, there is still much work to be done on this issue, and I invite all residents to join me in the discussion.
I support a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, but I do NOT support criminalizing the ban to punish local gardeners who rely on the leaf blowers for their livelihood. Here is how I see this issue:
Gas-powered leaf blowers are relics of the 1970's. While every other piece of technology has improved in the past 40 years, most leaf blowers still use the same engines developed in the 1970's. Emission standards for leaf blowers have not improved. Sound dampening for leaf blowers has not improved.
An hourly wage-worker who straps on a gas-powered leaf blower is exposed to carbon emissions well above what any of us would expose our own friends or family to. We wouldn't buy a car with similar emission standards, and yet we resign our gardeners to clean our yards with a 1970's gas-powered engine strapped to his back.
Particulant matter driven into the air by leaf blowers is also a source of unhealthy air quality for an entire neighborhood. Asthma among Americans is at an all-time high, so it is incumbent up municipalities to help protect air quality for our residents.
Despite these well-known facts about leaf blowers, enforcement of a full ban on gas-powered leaf blowers is problematic for two reasons.
First, a ban on leaf blowers is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Police and code enforcement officers in jurisdictions where leaf blower bans exist report that it is very hard to enforce bans on leaf blowers.
Second, enforcement of a leaf blower ban through fines against gardeners is unfair to the gardener. Most often, these gardeners are local residents who run their companies as a small business. It is simply unjust to punish gardeners for trying to make a living.
Therefore, my proposal is to ban leaf blowers to protect both workers and the community from the ill-effects of leaf blowers, but at the same time find ways to educate and offer incentives to gardeners to stop using leaf blowers.
I believe the technology exists in 2012 to stop using 1970's-era leaf blowers.
I believe that by banning leaf blowers, we should offer alternatives to gardeners, and we should help them find the mean to pay for these alternatives. That is why I proposed the following steps last night at our City Council meeting:
1) Ban all gas-powered leaf blowers in the City of San Mateo.
2) Offer monetary incentives in the form of grants or subsidies to local gardeners to purchase more worker and enviornmentally friendly garden vacums.
3) Use education and outreach to encourage gardeners to apply for these grants to use these more moden technologies to transform their businesses into more "green-friendly" businesses.
In the coming months I will be seeking state, federal, and foundation grant funds to fund this process. I will be holding community meetings and demonstrations to assess these new technologies. I will be reaching out to the gardener's groups and neighborhoods to seek their input.
By working together I believe we can craft what will be a "win-win-win" situation: A win for neighborhoods bothered by leaf blowers, a win for gardeners and their workers, and a win for the environment.
I hope to hear from all of you intersted in this topic.