leaf blowers zero air pollution
research regarding leaf blower laws
 
Keep Track of Information

Investigate/Verify Studies, Claims, and Opposition

Join Forces, Obtain and Show Public Support/Approval

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Educate Yourself

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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 similar situations.

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, don’t be overwhelmed by all these suggestions. We haven’t 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 purpose.

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 gardener’s 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 opponents.

If they are in error, challenge them. This may take only a few phone calls,
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 Shocking Truth")
Verify 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 opponent’s interpretation with the facts as you see them.

If you can’t 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 it’s 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 )
Investigate 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 there’s 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
Verify the 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.
Help elected 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 important contacts.

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”. Don’t just let it ride.

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 paper’s 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 speaker’s 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 site’s 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.

JOIN FORCES

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.

Obtain and 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 Alliances 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 skills.

Many of the other organization sites for Noise Pollution and Air Pollution also offer activists tips. Don’t 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.

For instance, your local Council member, the City Attorney’s 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 cities).

See also the Working For Change site.

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 don’t 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 report.

Don’t waste time with those groups or group leaders who have hidden agendas, and/or which are aggressive and difficult.