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The Speech

Jefferson Graham's speech to the Manhattan Beach City Council.
June 16, 1998

Let's talk about leaf blowers.

When you mention the subject and say that you are in support of a ban, you tend to get one of two responses:

The most common is:

  • I hate leaf blowers. When is something going to be done about them?

    Another comment you sometimes hear is:

  • What's so bad about leaf blowers? They're not out there that long and nobody's home anyway.

Well, let's talk about what's so bad about leaf blowers.

As you can tell from the material I've supplied to the 90 page city staff report, I've spent a considerable amount of time on the issue. When I began, it was from the perspective that I hated leaf blowers because of the noise and the pollution. I wasn't aware, however, of just how polluting they were.

Leaf blowers were invented to give gardeners an easier tool to pick up leaves. There's nothing wrong with that. I can't complain there.

But what they also do is blow garbage from one person's lawn to the next. And this is where the problems begin. Because now we have to talk about what's being blown into our yards. We're talking animal droppings, rat poison, pesticides, insecticides, plant fungus, dirt and debris. And the leaf blower leaves behind harmful particulates that are still in the air hours after the gardener has gone home.

So if you're coming from the "Leaf blowers aren't so bad" perspective, I just have to ask you how you feel about having that stuff blown onto your property. How do you feel about having your windows open while your neighbor's lawn waste is being blown? Because I can tell you that I sure don't like it. Nor did the citizens of Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Lomita, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Malibu, Beverly Hills and many other California cities-because their city officials responded by banning the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers.

Again, if you're thinking, "Maybe leaf blowers aren't that bad," I ask-why do you think 20 major California cities have all banned them? What do they know that we don't know? Why have 300 cities nationwide banned leaf blowers?

Because they pollute. Because they drive people crazy. Because they're a public nuisance.

Now let's talk about our current ordinance and why it doesn't work.

It says that leaf blowers can only be used between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. OK. That's well intended, but, the ordinance makes the assumption that all people leave our city in the morning and return at 5, which is a total fiction and not relevant at all to today's world.

What about the children who walk to and from school? The seniors on their way to Jocelyn Center? The pregnant and new mothers strolling their babies to Live Oak Park? What about the people who don't work 9-5, but say, 2-10? Or those who work at home? Telecommuting has been called the wave of the future, and I've seen reports that in LA County, some 25% of us now telecommute. But here in Manhattan Beach, we are penalizing those of us who do so, by forcing us to shut our windows during the spring and summer, or, as I am forced to do every Monday when one gardener does four houses on my block one after the other, I have to get up and leave because the noise and pollution is so unbearable.

Again, I say-what do they know in Hermosa, Lawndale, Lomita, L.A. and elsewhere that we don't know? One simple fact: Leaf blowers are hazardous to our health.

As a society, it used to be OK to light up cigarettes in public places. We didn't think twice about farmers spraying alar on apples and pesticides on fruit. Cities adding flouride to our water was an acceptable practice.

But generally, as we became more informed on health issues, we made significant changes to improve our lives. Now you've seen the petition from our citizens asking you to please ban leaf blowers. You've read the letters to the city council. As I've shown you in the staff report, the bans are working in the other cities. So what are you waiting for? Please respond as other cities have by banning gasoline powered leaf blowers in Manhattan Beach as soon as possible.

Finaly Some Help!
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