by Alan Pryor
Introduction – Every 2 years the Sierra Club Yolano Group prepares questionnaires for candidates in local races we deem to be seriously contested and/or where there are clear differences between the candidates on matters of interest to the public and/or our local Sierra Club members. We use questionnaires with written responses to allow the candidates to directly express their views and opinions in their own words. We report these in a series of articles on a range of environmentally-related topics.
This is Part 5 of the series in which we report candidates’ responses to a series of questions regarding toxics reduction in the City. The candidates’ responses are in alphabetical order based on their first name.
1st Question re: Pesticide Use Reduction
Preamble: Davis recently banned the use of pollinator-killing neonicotinoid class of pesticides and phases out the use of the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-up product) next year. However, the City Council declined to require that only certified organic pesticides be used in the City’s Parks and Open Spaces as recommended by the Natural Resources Commission and endorsed by the Sierra Club Yolano Group.
Question: Do you support restricting pesticide use on City properties to only those certified as “organic” and why or why not?
I support restricting toxic pesticide use on city properties. Toxic pesticides are harmful not only to children and pets but even more so to the workers who have to apply them. The City has dragged its feet for far too long in hiring an IPM specialist since the departure of the previous one (I am endorsed by Martin Guerena, the previous City of Davis IPM specialist). This has allowed non-specialist staff to press for “exceptions” to City policies instead of using methods that do not require any pesticide applications. The City Council needs to lead on this issue and not just follow current staff, who are not experts and who seem resistant to using any methods other than pesticides. Also, many neighborhoods have indicated an interest in helping with weeding, but at a recent City Council meeting staff admitted that they had not followed up on it. Yet they complain about the cost of other methods. The City Council can and should rectify this situation by encouraging and deploying citizen volunteers.
I think we should reduce the use of any and all pesticides as much as possible and provide a real justification for their use whenever they are being used. In terms of which ones to use in situations where they are justifiably used, I support looking into, and then using, the safest (or least unhealthy since I’m not sure if any of them are truly safe) and most environmentally friendly ones. These may end up being organic pesticides but this isn’t guaranteed since it’s possible for organic pesticides to be just as toxic as, or even more toxic than, synthetic ones. Because of this, I’m opposed to limiting our options in such an arbitrary way and would rather the City make a determination based on what’s truly the safest and most environmentally friendly option (which would, of course, include consulting the Natural Resources Commission, the Sierra Club Yolano Group, and other community members and organizations with relevant knowledge).
Yes I do support the further restriction of pesticide use on Davis land to the ensure the overall ecological better health of our community.
Yes- I support restricting the use to only certified “organic” pesticides. I support this measure in order to advance environmental sustainability.
Yes. As with auto-centered development, we need to change the way we behave. Again, I would want the best available evidence on how to proceed. The Parks, Open Space, and Natural Resources commissions have weighed in on this issue. I believe we need to take their recommendations and revamp our Parks and Open Spaces policies.
Yes, I support restricting pesticide usage on city properties to only those certified as organic. While on the city council, I voted to ban neonicotinoids and also phase out use of glyphosate on all city properties, parks, greenbelts, etc. There is typically a higher cost associated with organic pesticides, but we should bear that cost and make the switch. We also need to prioritize filling the vacant IPM Specialist city staff position. Lastly, I’d like to see the city utilize other IPM best practices such as use of goats to keep weeds down (and eliminate use need for herbicides) on open space lands.
One of the main purposes of open spaces and parks is to be a safe place for native plants and animals, as well as for the public. Our Parks and Green Belts have been pesticide-free for over two years now. I want to speak with staff, who I believe are opposed to the perceived higher costs of using organic pesticides or pesticide-free practices, before making any changes. However, I believe that the City Council needs to listen to the community and figure out what it takes to make the public’s recommendations work financially. The public’s recommendations should be the starting point for City Council decisions.
I support restricting pesticide use, as well as continue to move to native species. With the reduction in resources and potential reduction in staffing, the viability of using only organic pesticides versus no pesticide will need to be agreed upon by Council and the community taking careful note of potential fire hazards for uncontrolled growth.
If re-elected, I will continue my strong advocacy for the health and safety of our community by building upon our ban of cancer-causing pesticides in our parks and greenbelts and move us toward full non-toxic land management.
2nd Question re: Wood Smoke
Preamble: Small particulate pollution is the leading cause of respiratory disease in the Central Valley. Approximately 50% of winter ambient air particulate pollution is related to residential wood burning and a number of Davis residents have complained of nearest-neighbor wood smoke pollution causing respiratory distress. Davis has implemented a wood smoke ordinance that allows complaints to be filed against wood burning residents if they are producing visible smoke from a non-EPA approved wood burning device. However, the police department and code enforcement) will not respond to complaints during nighttime hours when almost all wood-burning occurs because they do not have enforcement tools.
Question: Why or why not do you support this ordinance, and what changes, if any, would you support to it including any enforcement mechanisms?
I support this ordinance. The health impacts on neighbors are real, and on some streets, persistent and ongoing. As it stands now the ordinance basically does nothing. The ordinance needs to be sufficiently funded so that it can be enforced.
I would be happy to learn more about this but at the moment, my knowledge is too limited to make a determination. In particular, I definitely think wood smoke is a problem, especially for those with respiratory issues, and needs to be addressed when it’s impacting others but I would like to know more about where this smoke is coming from and why people are producing it. Is it just that they like wood burning devices (in which case I would favor some sort of enforcement, though not by the police) or is it that people can’t afford, or don’t know how to implement, anything else in which case we should address the underlying causes by providing necessary education and/or financial resources. I wouldn’t want to fine someone (or take any other punitive action against them) for doing what they can to stay warm during cold winter nights.
I do support this ordinance, offenders should be fined per violation if updates to the ordinance are made.
I think we have an informed citizenship that is respectful and open to a wide variety of concerns from their neighbors. I do not favor using limited city resources to respond to this type of call. I would work with neighborhood leaders to find a productive, restorative process, to address neighbor concerns.
I support this ordinance but we need to include effective enforcement. I am not in favor of creating ordinances that cannot be enforced. The health benefits of such an ordinance have been verified. I do not know the efficacy of the Spare the Air alerts throughout the community, but they are effective at my house. I would like to see current data on air quality and the effects of wood-burning fires in Davis. I like to make evidence-based decisions and having this data would verify whether or not, and to what level, this problem exists in Davis. If wood burning fires are shown to be a genuine problem in Davis, I would have no problem outlawing them. As with the food-waste questions above, enforcement is a problem. Our current lack of enforcement is not a deal-breaker, but as part of an improved ordinance I would want an effective enforcement mechanism to be included.
I voted to institute this ordinance while serving on the city council, (which means I support it), but we need to do a better job of enforcing it. I think we need to task code enforcement to issue fines if they find that people are violating the ordinance, including at night. The summertime wildfires and associated bad air quality are going to affect us increasingly in the future and may start to equal or even eclipse the wintertime woodsmoke issues. We need to severely restrict electric leaf blower usage and issue a ban on gas powered blowers…this has become evident, and we should act soon.
First, I would like to address unenforced ordinances. We need to either enforce these or create an alternative structure which will be enforceable. Having any ordinances that are not enforced undermines the legitimacy of governing bodies. Particulates are hazardous, and we should limit them unless necessary. Wood smoke and leaf blowers are common causes of elevated levels of PM2.5, PM10, and well as SOx and NOx. My initial thought when it comes to these activities is to institute a permitting process for wood-burning that comes with an appropriate fee to those who feel these are necessary for them. This would include limiting the the type of equipment used and the time when use is allowed. For instance, only the most efficient EPA-regulated wood or pellet stoves and battery or electric leaf blowers should be allowed and only when air quality is not unhealthy. Large fines would be incurred by those who do not obtain a wood-burning permit, and by those using non-allowed equipment or emitting these pollutants outside the use times. These would always be strictly enforced. Pay-to-play permitting will help fund the enforcement of these policies.
I worked closely with residents, the Air District and staff to bring the current ordinance forward and supported adoption. I continue to support reducing woodsmoke. Ideally, we would expand the “do not light tonight” program to also encompass reductions of fire use on unhealthy air days. Enforcement is a challenge without tools that detect use within a reasonable time that supports enforcement. If tools become that truly enable enforcement I would be open to working with the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District to move into a pilot program.
Using our police officers for ordinance enforcement presents several problems not unique to wood smoke, and I am open to exploring alternatives. I support the limits set by the wood smoke ordinance, and I believe they do not set an unreasonable burden on homeowners given the real health impacts. I also support creating incentives to upgrade existing wood-burning systems in homes to other, more environmentally conscious and healthy alternatives.
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