Takoma Park Coalition Targets Leaf Blowers

By Ann E. Marimow and Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 16, 2008

Takoma Park's citizen activists have a new, noisy target: pollution-producing leaf blowers.

A group of resident environmentalists this week called on city leaders to ban gas-powered blowers. The machines are not just a loud nuisance, according to the coalition of about 30 residents, but are a major source of air pollution.

In a letter to Mayor Bruce Williams, the coalition said the "costs -- to public health, the environment, and our quality of life -- far exceed real or perceived benefits."

The letter says that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has recommended that residents "stop using gasoline-powered lawn care equipment, one of the top contributors of ozone-causing pollutants." Advocates quote from a county pamphlet describing the impact of such equipment on the environment, in part because the small engines for blowers, lawn mowers and chain saws are "not controlled or maintained in the same way that engines in cars are" for emissions.

Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the brochure that the letter quotes predates Leggett's election as county executive.

"I don't think we're telling people to stop," he said. "I think we're giving people information and saying there are a range of things people can do to improve air quality when it comes to their lawns."

The effort to ban leaf blowers follows Takoma Park's long history of activism, most recently when the council passed a resolution opposing the production and sale of foie gras and its earlier call for store owners and residents to use cage-free eggs.

Advocates of the ban have asked that the council schedule a work session to create a strategy for going after the blowers. If they are successful, the letter says residents would switch to "alternative methods of lawn care." In other words, get out those rakes and brooms for gathering leaves.

Ban advocates include Steve Davies, who publishes an environmental newsletter, and Mike Tidwell, founder and director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Tidwell is also the founder of Citizens Against Lawn Mower Madness, a group that has tried to restrict the use of gas-powered mowers.

The mayor had not responded to the coalition's request.

Special Tax Districts Divide County Council

County Council members from Montgomery's east side were thick into Tuesday's debate over special taxing districts for Clarksburg, a northern Montgomery community that is, said council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), pretty far removed from her district. Ervin said she is concerned that her constituents could end up picking up the tab.

Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), who lives in Takoma Park, said he worried that the debate showed the county as a divided community.

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