With term limits comes the need for continued education of
politicians and other elected officials, as new people take the place
of those who have years of background information behind their decisions.
Rather than wait for an urgent situation to arise, make the education
process an ongoing endeavor. A simple letter, sent soon after they
take office, requesting their ongoing support of the blower ordinance.
A thank-you for something they have done, or a point they
have made in the press, even if it relates to another matter. You
might, or might not, add that your own special interest is in blower regulation.
Or, highlight specific points in press clippings about noise, emissions,
or air quality, and send them, with a short note relating them to leaf
If your community does not have specific blower regulations, point out
how current noise or nuisance regulations relate to these machines.
Some of the following suggestions also relate to the Press.
|See our Action:
Educate the Public section. Legislators are more likely to listen
to facts and suggestions that already have broad public support.
|Present legislators with demographics
that support your position regarding their constituents, in terms
of population, income, race and ethnicity, for instance.
||Information regarding local, state
and federal government calendars, roosters and committees can be
found for free on official government sites. Los
Angeles City, CA State Assembly
and Senate, and for all states.
||To follow the progress of your own
reports with officials, check the report hotline to be sure your
report was registered. You may have to push through politely,
for this information. Wait for a live operator to come on
the line, and ask what you can do to follow up.
You may have to call your local police station to find out if a
citation was issued. That information may not be available.
The City Attorneys
office wrote a letter to LAPD, the Department of Building and
Safety and the Department of Public Works on March 1, 2001, confirming
the need to enforce the ban.
|If you find the law is not being complied
with and/or enforced, and your reports to the city Hotline do not
stop violations, contact your city representative.
In Los Angeles, that is the City
Attorneys office, and/or your City Councilmember.
The front of your phone book should have a Government section
that lists the City Attorney and your Councilmember. If
you arent sure who to call, ask the information operator
at the local or downtown city hall number, or go to the L.A.
Make your complaint. Ask and keep a record of: Who will
follow up your complaint? When should you expect a response
or call back? What else can you do? How can you find
out if your reports resulted in a citation?
As noted previously, a source for contact
numbers and web sites for other cities throughout the nation
is on our Reference Links page.
|Complain to your local law enforcement
agency, your City Attorneys
Office, your City Council Member.
|The California Air Resources Boards
Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and
Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers points out that,
Municipalities regulate leaf blowers most often as public
nuisances in response to citizen complaints. (California
Air Resources Board)
Besides an initial phone call, which may be made only because you
are aggravated with blower noise and odors, send a follow-up letter
asking what else they can do for you. Ask what other recourse
you have, besides complaining. Ask what needs to be done to
permanently solve this problem. Have like-minded friends complain
to the same people.
These complaints will form the basis for later pursuit of and enactment
Graphic, How a Bill Becomes a Law (in California).
Work with one or more local or state legislators, their staffs,
the City Attorneys office or other legal advisory entity,
and other like-minded groups to propose an equitable law that will
still serve your purpose.
You may as well put in your own wish list for youll
probably have to accept that it will be deflated somewhat before
its final vote. Give yourself room for compromise with
opponents of the legislation. If there could be any question
of the intent of the ordinance or bill proposal, reword it, or it
may be challenged in court. Spell out the intent, if necessary.
Definitions of blowers in other
Be sure keywords are fully explained. Consider the strength
of both positive and negative phrasing. For instance, gas
blowers are banned could be turned around to, only electric
and battery operated leaf blowers are allowed to be used on lawn,
gardens, other planting areas and hardscape.
Opponents may make suggestions that sound reasonable. Indeed,
manufacturers are trying desperately to avoid total bans, as well
as attacks on other landscape equipment. Some of their suggestions
may work in your neighborhood.
However, it is your job to point out either why they are unworkable,
or what will be needed to make them workable and fair.
For instance, the idea for decibel level restrictions came from
manufacturer. However, these restrictions are difficult to
enforce without regular readings conducted by an uninvolved third
party at what could be regular annual licensing renewals through
local government entities. As machines age and/or are not
well maintained, the noise level changes.
If you propose decibel levels, be sure they are registered five-to-fifteen
feet distance from the machine, the distance at which many people
are disturbed. The oft-quoted ANSI standard is an average
of several measurements taken at 50 feet in an open field.
Manufacturers have also requested certification programs,
but wish for the lawn and garden industry to do the certification.
The portable power equipment association pushed for hour restrictions
instead of bans. This would help with some quality of life
issues, but would not improve the emission and fugitive dust air
pollution problems associated with blowers.
NOTE: A manufacturer claimed that bans (but referring
specifically to the L.A. ban) are unenforceable.
The snag in L.A. is that electric blowers are still used, so violators
using gas blowers are not as noticeable as they would be if Los
Angeles had a total ban of all blowers.
|Proposed legislation may take years
to work its way through the system. If you are fighting proposed
legislation, use this time to make proposals of your own that will
cancel-out or weaken your oppositions position. Be sure your
suggestion does not pre-empt stricter ordinances or bills.
California legislators had five proposals (two or three at once),
nearly carbon copies of each other, which sought to remove blower
bans throughout the state. Blower opponent and supporter facts
provided to legislators were conflicting. Finally, State Senator
John Burton proposed that the Air Resources Board make a study of
health and environmental effects of blower use, so legislators would
be able to make informed votes.
(California Air Resources Board
) Soon thereafter, efforts to remove blower bans throughut the
|Support and Follow-up on Legislation.
|Try to review the original proposal
and all amendments before they are presented in final form, in order
to correct misrepresentations or wording which may have more than
one interpretation. Where that is the case, the courts will
have trouble enforcing the law.
Your legislator will count on your input for facts and your help
to gain public support of the proposed legislation.
The Internet and faxes have made it possible, in many cases, to
keep informed from your own home or office.
|Be alert to efforts at opposition legislation.
These may pop up even before your own legislation gets moving.
|Dont count on the press.
Legislation may be well along before it is reported.
If you have formed a group, make one person responsible for doing
a local and state computer word-search for this topic on a regular
basis. Go to the websites of your own community, and to the
State Government site, or specifically to the State Assembly or
State Senate sites.
Again, we have a page to Locate
definitions of blowers in other cities. Notice the drawbacks
and limitations in some of these ordinances, so you can avoid them.
Use words such as leaf blower, landscape, garden, ban, noise or
noise regulations or restrictions, nuisance, air quality, air pollution,
machine, emission, gas or gasoline, health.
|Check regularly for additional new
|While one proposal is making its way
through the state Senate, another similar proposal or an opposition
proposal may pop up there, or in the state Assembly.
Sometimes old bill proposals are cannibalized.
Technically, they are gut and amend bills, which are
completely rewritten as a new bill, with the old number. They
do not have to go back for review and another vote in committees
or the Assembly or Senate as a whole, if they have already been
One legislator responded to our urge of a No vote on
such a bill by stating that the bill couldnt be so bad, since
it had already passed the California State Assembly. We responded
that he should, perhaps, read the bill again, for it had been cannibalized
after passing the Assembly as a jury service bill, and now regarded
only the removal of all leaf blower bans throughout California.
|ZAP did not hold demonstrations or rallies
ZAP presented facts to elected
officials and to the press, expressed concern, and fought for
the right to a healthy and peaceful existence.
We used phone calls, faxes, emails, personal conversations with
elected officials and their staffs, attendance at City Council
and State Senate and Assembly meetings.
Demonstrations and rallies held by blower supporters resulted
in press coverage that, while it may have demeaned ban advocates,
also included health and environmentl facts that supported our
point of view.
|Contact and try to establish a rapport
with the caucus leaders immediately.
|Political parties, and other group-identification
caucuses decide about a new bill early in the new bill proposal
process. Members will vote according to their agreement with
other caucus members, no matter what information you present them
with at a later date.
Contact the office of your own local representative to determine
what caucuses exist, and how to contact their leaders and other
For state bills, the League of
Cities representative from your own locality may be able to
help you find your local lobbyist. In California,
the League's Latino Caucus holds three regional meetings annually,
other meetings open to the public throughout the year, and workshops
and forums for their members.
|Read each and every version
of proposed legislation, amendments, AND any summaries or analyses.
These shorter versions are often the only thing a legislator (or
legislative aide who recommends a position) has read.
If these summaries
or analyses contain errors or misinterpretations, they must be
Statements made or provided by blower supporters will take on
a feeling of truth when added to a bill proposal or its analysis,
or when quoted by a politician who did not check them out.
This is especially so after the bill, or a politician, is then
quoted in the press or media by a reporter, who also did not check
If possible, find and network with a liaison person in the
offices of your elected representative or a lobbyist from
another organization who will keep you in touch with the latest
See if you can get on a notification list.
Check the government web site regularly for the ordinance
or proposed bill numbers, and also for keywords.
To correct errors, contact the author, or sponsor, and all
Find your own representatives for L.A City Council, CA State
Senate and Assembly, and U.S. Congress on the City
of L.A. website.
|Create and distribute to your own group,
a list of members of the next government committee scheduled to
consider, or hear a bill proposal or an issue.
|Include the email, phone numbers,
and/or address of representatives. Make this list available
to others who want to voice their opinion about upcoming legislation.
If you are not on-line at home or work, find
local libraries where the Internet is available for free, and
librarians will help you get started, if necessary. Look for
specific names, titles of committees, words which will lead you
to proposed legislation, or the exact number of the proposed bill.
You will be able to find California bills, amendments, past history,
and current status on the following sites:.
Find proposed legislation, committee members and contact information
on the California and other
|Take notes at public meetings, public
hearings, or when a politician or opponent is quoted on radio or
Audio tape radio talk shows which discuss the topic, especially
if your opposition or a politician is being interviewed.
Videotape television shows wherein your issue is discussed, or even
where a politician speaks of his or her other special interests
Challenge these quotes, or use
them to show agreement with the speaker, when you write letters
to them, or to the press and media. Open your letter with
their own words, in quotes, then link your first paragraph to
them, in agreement, if possible.
When speakers are misquoted or misinterpreted, you will be in
a position to offer corrections, with proof.
A written transcription made by ZAPLA of a Los Angeles City Council
meeting clearly shows the intent of the vote to ban gas blowers
was to stop the pollution of two-stroke machines. A report
similar to a letter sent by ZAP to the Los Angeles City Attorney
regarding this transcription will be made available to government
officials at their request. Please email ZAPLA or send the
request on official letterhead. Include email, post office
address and phone number.
|Ask one member of your group to set
their VCR to automatically record your city or state public meetings,
if they are televised.
|Los Angeles City Hall Council meetings
are broadcast regularly. In some areas they are on the Adelphia
You can check each meetings agenda on the city website to
determine which to watch in order to obtain meaningful information
WRITE SHORT LETTERS
Use the knowledge you have gained about specific concerns of,
and statements made by, politicians when you write to them in
support of, or opposition to the position they have taken.
|Urge group members, family, friends
and neighbors to write to the committee head, and to their own representative,
if he or she is on the committee or in the legislative body scheduled
to hear the proposal.
Even if they dont write, your appeal will educate them about
Where time is short, phone or
send e-mails. Faxes take up paper and phone time in a busy
office. However, in light of the tactics taken by astro-turf
bogus grassroots groups, they may be the only way you have
to confirm that you are speaking as a concerned member of the
community. Even if you only speak to a deputy, rather than
the legislator, walking into the office to leave a letter will
also make your point.
Phone calls to local offices may make more of an impression than
phoning the downtown city or Sacramento office. Staff in
local offices may take more interest in the opinion of a constituent,
and have more time to listen to facts. If you call the Sacramento
office, ask for the person who is handling this issue. In
either case, be aware of their time constraints.
Immediately state your position on a specific issue and your affiliation,
if any. Next, ask if the person you have contacted has time
to speak to you at that moment, or if they prefer you call back
at a more convenient time.
These aides or consultants are the ones who read incoming material,
handle phone calls, and will pass your views and facts on to legislators.
Educating them, is educating the legislator. Be respectful.
Check the California State
web site to find a copy of the bill, amendments (may not be
posted yet), the Bill Analysis (which may be the only thing that
most legislators have time to read), and schedules of where and
when the bill will be addressed in committee or otherwise.
Check the list of committee members, and then go to their web
pages to see their backgrounds and special interests. This
information will help you phrase your own letter to them in a
more compelling manner.
Check with the deputy, aide or committee consultant to confirm
when the bill is on the agenda, the date, and ask what dates are
best to send them letters of opposition or support. Your
letters need to arrive not so early that they are forgotten, and
not too late to be counted. Address your letter to the chair
of the committee, copies to the consultant and to the sponsor
of the bill. Ask the consultant if you should send copies
to each committee member.
In some cases, you may wish to do so, even if the consultant has
indicated it is not necessary.
|Again, due to bogus letters sent by
some industries, you need to show that you are speaking as an individual
community resident, or valid grassroots group. Write short
letters in long hand your own stationery. Give your opinion
(I support Bill No. xxx) and share your own pertinent experiences.
You could then attach a typed, easy to read, fact sheet
of only one or two pages. This might be presented in a bulleted
or table form, but should still be in your own words.
Each person should write a personal letter to the legislator who
is taking the lead supporting your position, and copy or write a
separate letter to the representative of his or her own neighborhood.
Busy legislators may only read letters from their own constituents,
so be sure to include addresses of the writers. However, a
slew of mail or phone calls about personal experiences from individuals,
even if unread, must make some impression.
Include a RE: Subject after the inside address and before the body
of the letter. For instance, In opposition to Bill No.
Have a clear, strong opening sentence, This bill does not
do what its supporters claim it will do. (Then explain why).
Keep the letter to one page. Address facts relating to a specific
interest a legislator or committee has in the proposed bill.
(Is it a Health committee, or a Business committee?) Appeal
to the special interests listed in the legislators biography.
Quote and reference parts of the bill you dispute. Quote experts.
Dont elaborate more than necessary. Dont whine.
If the letter absolutely must be longer than one page, make your
feelings and requests known in a one page letter, and....
|After every vote or discussion, thank
elected officials and representatives who supported your position.
Even if they used information
you sent to them, quote back something they said that may have
influenced other legislators to vote in your favor, or which you
This also gives you an opportunity to pass on more information
to them. That may be important if the matter might come
before them at another time. For instance, they may vote
on it in committee, and again at a later date, in a general vote
of all of the Senate or Assembly members.
INVESTIGATE LEGAL OPTIONS
Are the use of blowers, the use of a specific type of blower,
the production of air pollution or noise, or the littering
of your property by a neighbors gardener or other nuisance
an infraction or misdemeanor in your locality? What difference
does that make in its enforcement or in penalties for violations?
Ask how that is applied in the real world. This
may be far different from the written word.
|People under blower induced stress have
asked us if they can Make citizens arrests and hold
blower users until the police come to take over.
|The Los Angeles police discourage
this, and ZAP has never done this. If you are considering
this action, you should find out if this is legal in your area,
and what it entails, from the first approach of the blower operator,
through court proceedings. This should be a consideration
only for those schooled in activism, and with large group support
and legal advice. See activism websites for other advice.
An attempt to make a citizens arrest might cause the blower
operator to panic, especially if he or she fears police for reasons
unknown to you. They may, or they may have friends or supporters,
who will seek reprisals, and your name will be on a public record.
It might work as a publicity event, if you have previously set up
a time and place with the police, and if those plans are not made
a public record in advance of the event. Even notification
to the press should be about 5 a.m., so they will not contact opposition
groups for their comments. These groups might then be able
to stop your plans, or get more publicity for themselves than you
gain for your own cause. In their eyes, you will be the villain,
trying to throw a poor worker (who may not even speak English) into
jail! If you cant put a positive slant on that perception,
think of something else to do.
|Others have asked if they could sue.
We dont recommend this,
and we dont give legal advice. But, ZAP would report
on such an action if we were notified.
Lawsuits are very involved and may bring more tension into ones
life than they are worth. It is possible that Plaintiffs
(those who file a complaint) must show financial loss.
However, weve heard some horror stories whose only answer,
if violations of current laws continue, might be to file a complaint.
This might work for those living in a condominium complex, whose
board of directors refuses to comply with the law.
Remember, the judge or jury who handles the case may not be as
educated about the subject as you are, and may rule against you.
Be sure you can get the facts to them. If you have a lawyer,
or are represented by a City Attorney, ask to review every argument
so you can give your own input. They will know what arguments
do not carry legal weight.
First, find out what constitutes loss of income, harassment, and
a nuisance. Read all pertinent laws and ordinances.
Find out whom to sue. The violator? The employer?
Get advice from interested parties or groups such as Nonoise.org
(which may provide testimony). See if someone else will
join you in filing suit. A class action, filed
by several people, would be interesting.
According to Robert
J. Bruss in his Consumer Watch column in the L.A. Times:
A public nuisance affects a large number of people. Because
of this, where local politics does not interfere, a City Attorney
might take action to gain a court injunction to stop the activity;
a partial abatement; a negotiated settlement, or payment of monetary
damages to an injured party. Or, a group might take the
issue to Small Claims Court, themselves.
A private nuisance affects one or just a few people. It
may affect only one sensitive person. The problem may be
solved by a verbal or written request, or a few letters from a
lawyer, to the offender and/or his employer, Here, too,
a lawsuit to abate the nuisance could be filed in Small Claims
This is true even if zoning and local ordinances allow the offensive
activity, even if there is no violation of a law, and even
if there are other public and private nuisances nearby.
However, in order to prove the nuisance exists, be prepared with
photos and records you have made. These are best written
down at the times it occurred. In this case, date, time,
location, approximate sound level, license plate numbers of gardener
truck, description of workers, names, if possible, and notes regarding
any conversation which may have taken place with the violators.
A tape recording, videotape and independent witness testimony
would also be of benefit.
Start the audiotape before acknowledging and discussing the fact
with others who will be heard on the tape, to establish that you
were not doing so secretly.
If you claim a violation of a leaf blower ordinance, and it specifies
65 decibels at 50 feet, take a sound meter reading
at that distance one or more times to prove your point.
Be sure to read the instructions and act accordingly so your information
will not be thrown out. Many nuisance laws seem broader.
You may want to ask the court to consider both the leaf blower
and a nuisance code violation.
This information is according to California law. For other
states or localities, consult your City or County Attorney, or
find your legal codes by locating your
|Press law enforcement to do their jobs,
all the way up through the court system.
|The blower operator who violates the
hard-won ban seems to be the one at whom to direct your anger, and
the employer who pays for the service and allows blower use also
seems responsible. But, remember, it is the machine and its
problems that bring about your anger. It is both the violation
and the lack of enforcement that are frustrating.
The city cannot enforce violations they know nothing about.
If you witness a violation, it is up to you to take action.
Continue to make reports, follow them up with the report line, and
see if you can find out whether a citation was issued, whether a
repeat violator was taken to court or what fine was paid as a result
of each report you made. Let us know about your efforts.