BY DINA PESENSON
Environmental Sustainability Board
Last Tuesday, April 19, during the Public Works presentation Council expressed concern about Option 11 and subsequently voted to ‘parking lot’ it for tonight’s (Apr. 25) consideration. Specifically, that option was related to your unanimous decision from Dec 14th, 2021 to stop use of glyphosate containing herbicides on county land. Concerns brought up to “parking lot” this option were by Councilor Izraelevitz expressing “buyer’s remorse” and his concern that the December 14, 2021 decision was made by the Council without understanding financial implications. Councilor Lepsch also expressed incredulity at that decision showing his unfamiliarity with your December 14 discussion and unanimous approval.
Below I outline the 6 year long public process as a reminder to Council of the thoroughness and magnitude of the public process undertaken for this item and to inform councilors Lepsch and Hand if they have not had a chance to review the Dec 14th, 2021 council meeting video yet.
Please keep in mind that this public process culminated in two advisory boards to the Council both passing this recommendation last fall as well as an unprecedented amount of public comment with equally unprecedented level of consensus in their support of this effort. Council responded with a two hour discussion including presentations and comments from staff and community before their unanimous approval vote on Dec 14, 2021. The discussion at the Council meeting included guesstimates of potential costs orders of magnitude higher than amounts currently on the budget for approval. That discussion also addressed all brought up safety concerns including those for staff having to switch to mechanical weeding methods along roadways and medians. Additionally, during the Council meeting councilors specifically noted that based on the outpouring of community support on this effort it was appropriate to note it as a “community value” for related considerations by staff going forward.
Outline of the public process efforts follows:
1) early May of 2016 multiple community members were alarmed to see a public announcement for boom spraying of herbicides at Urban Park less than 24 hours before Mountain Elementary spring family picnic event.
2) a 2016 petition to County Parks and Rec to stop use of glyphosate and minimize boom spraying and use of herbicides similar to Trimec signed by over 230 community members
3) multiple requests and presentations to Parks and Rec Board (Councilor Hand was PRB Chair in the first two years so she may recall) and Environmental Sustainability Board over the past 6 years
4) regular meetings and follow up of community members with Parks and Rec Director and staff through staff changeovers to establish and maintain Western Area Park as a no-herbicide park as an experiment on feasibility of both maintenance effectiveness and costs related to maintaining a sports field, play ground, paved paths and a green area without use of herbicides.
5) Western Area Park successfully maintained without use of herbicides by the County Parks and Rec Department for over 5 years to the satisfaction of park neighbors and users including sports teams who utilize that field.
6) as part of their response Parks and Rec also worked on decreasing herbicide use in all parks especially avoiding boom spraying in response to citizen concerns
7) emails to Council and county risk assessor to highlight latest developments in litigation threat increase from having employees be exposed at work as well as community members being exposed through spraying at parks and along roadways/parks/paths/properties (Councilors Scott, Izraelevitz and Ryti may recall the original emails on this as well). One addition since December is that Bayer who owns patents on glyphosate has now sold their entire pesticide division off and came to a bulk financial payout agreement to limit future lawsuit losses thus effectively transferring all later lawsuits to employers potentially.
8) Parks and Rec as well as Environmental Sustainability had presentations on this subject from staff and community in the fall of 2021 and eventually both passed this recommendation to the Council.
9) Both boards and Council had an unprecedented amount of public input with an equally unprecedented level of consensus in support of this effort.
10) Council spent two hours on presentations and comments from staff and community followed by discussion before voting unanimously to stop use of glyphosate based herbicides on County land.
Thank you for your time and consideration,