Leaf Blowers – My Remarks
These are my draft remarks for tonight’s discussion of Article 2 at Town Meeting. See the recommended vote on the town website.
Kevin Greeley wishes that he could be here with us and he sends his regrets. He had surgery on Saturday, and I’m happy to report that he is recovering well.
To frame this debate, I think we should review how we all got here. Last winter, 10 registered voters put a gas-powered leaf blower ban on the warrant. The selectmen recommended no action. At town meeting last spring, a substitute motion was submitted advocating that such blowers be entirely banned. The advocates of the ban talked about the negatives of leaf blowers, including dust, carcinogens, and noise. Opponents of the blower ban described their labor-saving benefits. Regrettably, during the debate, two town meeting members opposed to the ban suggested that “if you don’t like it, you should move out of town.” This rhetoric did not help the debate, and made it far more emotional than it needed to be. We adjourned for the night without taking a vote.
When we came back the next day, Mr. Radochia tried to guide us to a compromise. He proposed an amendment to only ban blowers from May 15 to October 15. That amendment carried, and the main motion as amended was approved. We had one more night of town meeting, no leaf blower discussion, and then we all went home. Later that month, many hundreds of signatures were collected from citizens opposed to the ban. In July, thousands of votes were cast, but not quite enough to overturn the regulation.
At our next meeting, the board of selectmen created a committee and asked it to find a compromise. The next day, the signatures were submitted that called this meeting.
So, that’s the history. What should we do next? I believe that it is a time for patience. When we first voted this at town meeting last year, there had been no public discussion, no dialog, and no attempt at compromise. Town Meeting is a difficult place to craft a compromise. A committee of 252 people doesn’t get very far. The ballot this summer was even more constrained – there were only two choices, a simple yes or no.
This issue is more complex than simple yes or no. There is no one here who wants dust and chemicals blown in through their dining room window. Yet, thousands of residents have clearly signaled their disapproval of a seasonal ban. Some here tonight would be satisfied with the bylaw as it stands and not wish to study or compromise the issue any further. Others here want nothing short of a wholesale repeal. We must seek to understand the legitimate concerns of our fellow town meeting members and neighbors on all sides of this issue. We must seek a reasonable — if imperfect — compromise.
Before you is the recommended vote of the board of selectmen. We are asking you to create a Town Meeting committee to continue the work started this fall. The draft bylaw language you see in our vote is not at all final. That draft is the recommendation so far, and the committee is free to find its way to whatever compromise it thinks is appropriate.
The committee will be made up of 12 people, including landscapers, town meeting members, and interested citizens. We believe that this group can craft a compromise that will make everyone happy – or, at least make everyone less unhappy! This committee will return a recommendation before the spring town meeting. It is our intent to call a special town meeting within the regular town meeting. We can act on the committee recommendation before May 15, before the current bylaw takes effect. While whatever we approve in the spring will not take effect until sometime after May 15, it is sure that enforcement will be flexible – any obsolete bylaws will not be enforced.
I understand that Mr. Loreti has an amendment. As a board, we have not had an opportunity to consider it. Personally, I have no objection to the amendment.
In closing, there is no simple answer. This issue demands a compromise. We can’t craft that compromise here. This proposed committee, however, can find a compromise if given time. I ask you to give them the time they need. I ask for your patience.