It is time to take a deep breath and question the conventional wisdom that environmentally-responsive regulations, like restricting leaf blowers, are "bad for business."
The evidence shows the opposite to be true.
For years, dozens of cities in California have banned gas-powered leaf blowers entirely. They include Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Mill Valley, Ojai, Tiburon, Palo Alto and Carmel.
For livability, and places where consumer-oriented small businesses want to be, this is an all-star roster. Local business thrives not where regulation is lowest but where consumers with money go to spend it.
One thing that cities banning gas leaf blowers have in common is that their city councils are more responsive to their constituents than to leaf blower manufacturers and right-to-pollute zealots. They faced the same decision that the City Council in Sebastopol voted on a few weeks ago: How do we as a community balance the right of the 10 percent of people who use leaf blowers that pollute the air and create deafening noise with the right of their neighbors not to be subjected to toxic air and deafening noises?
These communities decided that the right not to be subjected to disruptive noise and toxic air was more important. And in subsequent years, these cities have not experienced budget increases, enforcement problems or landscaper bankruptcies. Once the bans were in place, people followed the new law and started using rakes.
As for what the bans did to business: As home values plummet and stores in many cities shut down, "green" communities continue to thrive. Sebastopol has the highest priced homes of any city in Sonoma County, and it attracts the most affluent newcomers in the region. These are consumers willing to pay extra for local goods and services, from acupuncture to Main Street clothing boutiques to local organic produce and Peace in Medicine edibles.
Along with scores of people with young children in the Sebastopol Waldorf schools, I moved to Sebastopol, with my small business, for the progressive green lifestyle and parent-supported alternative schools. As with most homeowners in town, we have a small yard. It takes me less than a half-hour a few times a year to rake and sweep leaves. Both my office and home are near one of the city's beautiful parks. It's a wonderful place to live and work -- except when leaf blowers disrupt the quiet and poison our air. They are, simply put, bad for business.
I helped start the Sebastopol Peaceful Air Effort after watching a worker in Libby Park, which houses four schools and over 600 children, spend a half-hour using an ear-splitting leaf blower. It shot dust containing toxins like soot, salt, metals and acid into the air at 200 miles per hour. Yet there was not a single leaf on the ground. And the toxins made airborne, which contribute to respiratory illness, can stay there for days. (A video of this insanity can be viewed on our web site, at www.ProgressiveSource.org.)
Nearly 200 people signed a petition asking the City Council to effectively restrict leaf blowers, including scores of parents with small children in local schools.
I have written about and managed businesses for more than 30 years. I find a number of sound business reasons to ban all gas-powered leaf blowers. Budget-wise, city workers can spend a little more time with rakes and brooms and clean walkways less often. Meanwhile, the city avoids the potential liability for worker lawsuits due to hearing loss and respiratory illnesses. Potential newcomers will know that Sebastopol continues to value clean air, healthy living and quiet. Businesses will see a thriving community and a nondisruptive environment.