Some of the ideas throughout the Action sections may seem extreme.
As ZAP moved from individuals wanting to be heard by the City to become
an actual grassroots group, we learned a lot. Particularly, that we were
up against experienced activists and big business used to controlling
We are merely passing on personal experiences, We should have done
ideas that came up after the fact, and the methods used by experienced
activists and other blower supporters in Los Angeles, in their
efforts to gain city or state support for their cause.
Finally, dont be overwhelmed by all these suggestions. We havent
done most of these things ourselves!. The ideas are for you to consider,
to pick from, and to modify, should you find that one or more suit your
Finding a Quiet Neighborhood.
Spend time in the neighborhoods where you are conducting a house-search.
Ask residents what the gardening schedules are and how many machines are
used. Then come back for a listen.
In Los Angeles, gardeners use gas or electric mowers, blowers, edgers
and trimmers at each visit, creating fugitive dust and up to, or more
than, an hour of noise and fumes at each residence.
Ask realtors about local laws, and confirm their answers by doing an internet
search of noise and nuisance municipal laws. Do a word search on the web
site of the local newspaper. The names of these papers can be found on
one website under "Action; Activist Tips; Media" on the Workingforchange
web site. See if the local Civic Association
has a web page.
How close are the property line fences to the house? What lies just behind
those fences, particularly near bedrooms or other windows that you may
want to keep open? Both landscaped areas and (patios, decks, walkways,
driveways, sidewalks, gutters, streets) are cleaned with blowers. What
type of gardening activity goes on down wind of windows you might want
to keep open? Fugitive dust, propelled two or three stories high, can
drift for blocks.
If you are looking at common interest living such as condominiums,
ask not only residents, but also the condo board members. Speak to the
management company. Then, sit around the complex during gardeners
work time to judge the level of disruption caused by machines or other
loud work habits for yourself. (01.8.2)
|Start a file now, for press
clippings and other related information that comes your way. If
you later decide to write a letter, make a phone call, or take other
action, you will be prepared in advance.
When you clip an article, be sure you note the date, publication,
section (if any), page number. If the title and the name of the
author are not available, search them out right away. It will be
more difficulty two or three years later, when you may need or want
to provide that information to someone else.
|At first, just tossed
in a box, ZAP press clippings about blowers and related health and
environmental facts just grew and grew. They have served many purposes
most relevant of which is that they formed the basis for
this web site. They contain facts, quotes, names of experts or other
ban advocates that we sometimes contacted.
Give a file number to each article and piece of information. Most
of our system can be seen in our Media Citations section, linked
above in our heading. The source of this database includes the file
number, article title, publication, author and also a summary of
statements we might want to use, support or refute. We can then
use a word search to find specific information about
one topic in the summaries of various articles.
ZAP media references are filed and numbered first with the year,
then the month, and finally in the order in which they were listed.
For instance, 98.7.3 is an article published in July 1998. It was
the third article filed under that month and year. It can be found
in numerical order in a file folder marked 1998.
The point is to be able to research a point in your own files, or
to correctly reference your source of information in the future.
So, make up your own system.
INVESTIGATE AND VERIFY
STUDIES AND CLAIMS
|Investigate claims of your
If they are in error, challenge them. This may take only a few phone
|Look for the difference
between facts and opinion.
For instance, claims that gardeners would easily electrocute
themselves with electric blowers were refuted with facts compiled
by ZAP from the Underwriters Laboratory, the Los Angeles City Department
of Building and Safety Electrical Test Lab, and Sears Consumer Affairs
Representative. (Read "The
existence of studies cited by blower supporters and investigate
their findings. It may take a few phone calls to track down the
original study, but it will be time well spent.
|Go to the
original study, if at all possible. Read it completely. Compare
your opponents interpretation with the facts as you see them.
If you cant find it, perhaps the reporter who wrote about
it could help or give you unreported information, which would lead
you to it.
You need to know if the study is legitimate. Opinions or estimates
may have been termed or interpreted by press or your opponents,
as facts. If you think this may have happened, find the source of
the facts noted by the study so you can verify that
they were accurately interpreted and presented.
Ask the person who actually created or conducted the study if it
was unbiased, and what made it so? Who paid for it? What was its
purpose (for instance, was it made in order to justify larger budget
requests from a parks department?)
Who participated in its design, implementation, and analysis? Did
independent, unbiased witnesses oversee it? Who were they, and what
are their affiliations? How can you reach them?
How was it set up? Were all comparisons equal? Were all yard maintenance
tools compared (i.e. were rakes, brooms, vacuums included?). Were
all aspects of use taken into consideration? (i.e. were time and
money spent in maintenance and repairs, buying fuel, refueling,
unloading, mounting a machine on your back, turning it on compared
with picking up a manual tool such as a rake and broom?)
|Let study originators know
that their study is being referred to by one group or another as
support for their point of view, and that others will probably also
be questioning the findings.
|The City Manager of Whittier,
California, responded to several pages of questions ZAP sent to
him regarding the results of a study widely referred
to by blower supporters, by stating that there had been no study.
(Read ZAP questions
to the City of Whittier )
the authenticity of grass roots and other groups who
challenge blower bans.
|In many campaigns
opposed by Big Business, bogus grass-roots
groups (known as astro-turf) are created by public relations
and professional lobbying firms hired by industry entities, to give
the appearance of widespread community support for their cause.
Big Names, people well known and respected by the
public, are hired (or promised something they want) to be speakers.
(See L.A. Times article "Lobbyists Tied to Microsoft Wrote
CitizensÕ Letters" by Joseph Menn and Edmund Sanders,
8/23/01 pp.A1 and A14) These groups make a list of supporters for
a proposed bill look good.
Politicians and policy-makers are now the focus of . . .carefully
orchestrated nation-wide campaign to create the impression of a
surging grass-roots movement. and, Rick Cantrell, community
relations director for Utah Attorney General, points out, When
theres a real groundswell, people walk in, they fax, they
call. We get handwritten letters. (01.8.2)
Be sure you and/or your legitimate group are listed as supporting
or opposing legislation. Be sure you are recognized as an individual,
or as a legitimate grass roots group by phoning or showing up at
the offices of politicians, faxing them from your own fax number
or email address, and handwriting some, if not all letters and notes
to elected officials. See
list of supporters and opponents, of proposed legislation.
Contact those you feel have chosen a position that does not agree
with yours if you feel they were given inaccurate information.
officials in other towns and cities learn the facts with letters.
Urge withdrawal of their support of your opponents positions,
on the basis of your new facts. If you know someone
who lives in that town, ask them to co-sign your letter as a resident,
or to write one of their own.
Call the office of City manager or Mayor to obtain information and
the name and number of the appropriate contact person for information
and/or support. Check with secretaries or council aides. They may
volunteer more information than you have asked for, and lead to
Explain your goals and concerns, and ask who approved their initial
position, and why?
If you find they are not actually supporters, ask them to so inform
the committee hearing the bill, the representatives leading your
side, and the opposition leader. Give them that contact information
to make it easier for them. Write to those entities yourself to
challenge the list of supporters. Dont just let
We believe one city retracted their support of a state proposition
after being contacted and informed by ZAP of the effect the proposition
would actually have on their city.
|Try to find out who is paying
for lobbying for or against measures, or contributing to the politicians
who introduce and/or support them.
Pass this information on to press contacts and politicians who support
your position. Or, put it into an OP ED piece for your local paper.
(Usually opposite the Editorial page). Phone or visit the papers
web site for instructions on size and submission rules.
|Some of your opponents
may be taking their stand for political gain and/or publicity. You
may never be able to change their votes just because you are right.
Try to gain support from individuals and groups who are members
of the faction the politician represents.
CITY: The City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission is listed under
Boards and Commissions on the City
of L.A. website. It lists campaign contributions. The staff
holds training and seminars for community organizations, provides
materials about the ethics law, and coordinates a speakers
bureau for citizen groups.
Certain Lobbyists must register with the city. Let the Ethics Commission
know that you would like your issue to be listed as a lobbying
issue. If that is possible, follow up by checking the web
sites Lobbying Summaries.
Also check the Campaign Disclosure Statements. It helps if you know
the names of your opposition, such as a manufacturer, the parent
company, subsidiaries, lobbyist, and/or the industry association,
through which funds may flow.
STATE: At the state level, Cal-Access
is the California Automated Lobbying and Campaign Contribution
& Expenditure Search System listing political parties,
political action committees and major donors who contribute to campaigns,
and slate Mailer Organizations that are paid to promote
candidates and issues, and for lobbying activity.
FEDERAL: Check data collected by the Federal
Election Commission to see how money from anti-environmental
corporations and coalitions affects environmental decision makers.
If an astro turf bogus grassroots group has suddenly
sprung up, and if it has filed for non-profit status, they must
show you their annual information return (Form 990) and its attachments.
Except for donor lists, unfortunately! If they refuse to let you
inspect Form 990, contact the IRS
Customer Service and they will arrange a time for your inspection.
|Discover others who feel
as you do.
Bring the ban up as
a topic of conversation amongst neighbors, friends, co-workers
and acquaintances. In so doing, you may also educate those who
are confused about whether the law still exists.
Go to website Bulletin Boards or Chat Rooms and find or bring
up the subject of leaf blowers. They may be under the catagories
of sustainable living, health, society and culture; environment
and nature; pollution; air quality, or gardening. Do a search
for "Leaf blower" to find the right group.
Go back often to respond to other responses. Let us know if you
learn anything we should add to this website.
Show Public Support.
|Keep a list
of people you think would be supportive of restrictions or bans
on blowers or other garden equipment. You may want to contact them
for support at a later date to ask them to write letters, or sign
a petition, or phone their representatives.
Be sure to keep this list confidential, unless you have specific
permission to release their names. In the future, you may have reason
to ask them if you can give their names and numbers to the offices
of an elected official, or to a specific reporter who seeks an interview.
||Form a support group and/or
contact and align with other related grassroots health or environmental
groups, such as those working for clean air or noise control.
See our Links List for groups and their contact information.
|Forming and being effective
as a grassroots group
|For comprehensive information
on forming a grassroots group, go to the Rainforest
Action Network site and search for Skills Building. It covers
Media Skills, such as creating an identity, how to write a press
release, mission statement and outreach materials, getting press
coverage, how to develop a press list, how to take good photos,
radio public service announcements. RAN also covers fundraising
skills such as letters and foundation grants, and direct action
Many of the other organization sites for Noise Pollution and Air
Pollution also offer activists tips. Dont be wary of the word
activist. Making one phone call or writing one letter
to get your point across is an activist accomplishment.
Though we have made efforts to omit websites that encourage illegal
or violent activities, if a site is too aggressive for your taste,
just poke around for information you can use.
|How to Network
|Get information from the
rest of this ZAPLA site. Get support from other sites listed herein.
See our LINKS section.
GIVE your own information to web sites that document efforts of
groups such as yours. Even if they just list your name and contact
number, you may find other supporters who will join your letter-writing
or other activities.
Consider, however, that your opponents may also make contact with
you, and may not state their position.
|Create a contact
list of other groups or entities that may be of help to you in the
future. You may need to contact them on short notice.
your local Council member, the City Attorneys office (both
on the cityofla website),
the Air Resources Board (California
ARB), your state assembly and senate members (California)
(Other states), your local
police captain (NOT 911!!),
Los Angeles now has a toll-free non-emergency police assistance
number. 1-877-ASK-LAPD; aka 1-877-275-5273. Please place it around
your house, on telephones, for use when there is not a life-threatening
emergency. If you need to speak to the Police and cannot find
your local precinct number in the front, Government section of
your phone book, try ASK-LAPD.
When facing a state measure, find out the position of your own
city lobbyist. Try to influence that position by providing information
that supports your stand. The League
of California Cities may also represent your city or town.
To easily locate websites of other states, counties, cities, villages,
towns in all states see (Other
See also the Working For Change
|Try to align
with groups who are respected by your main opposition.
|In Los Angeles,
we should have spoken with the Mothers group concerned with the
health of Latinos. We were kept so busy by our opposition that we
just never had the time.
Prepare and distribute health information fliers (printed back-to-back
on one sheet, on recycled paper) to leave at health clinics and
medical waiting rooms. Or, convince large health organizations to
cover the subject by posting information or a poster in waiting
rooms, or by printing an article in their regular newsletters
Where several opposition groups exist, meet with one group at a
time, with those that are reasonable. Try to educate one or more
of them about your position. Listen carefully to their concerns.
Be careful you dont make statements that can be misinterpreted
or used against you, should an opponent speak to the press.
On the other hand, you might consider having a member of the press
present. If so, tape the discussion so you can verify a later press
Dont waste time with those groups or group leaders who have
hidden agendas, and/or which are aggressive and difficult.