Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bob Dunning: We’re not expecting this to blow over


From page A2 | November 03, 2013 | 15 Comments

I’m not sure if this is a sign of what’s to come, but I did receive a sharply worded email from former City Council candidate Daniel Watts the other day about an incredibly important issue in this town.

It made me wonder if this is Dan’s way of dipping his toe into the political waters to see if another council run is in his future.

I certainly hope so. New blood is almost always a good thing in local politics. And even though I’m not certain Daniel is old enough to vote, that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of holding elective office.

Just imagine, if Daniel runs and wins, and Dan Wolk happens to lose his race for the 4th Assembly District seat, we’ll have two Daniels on the same council. That would certainly be a first in this town’s history and perhaps a first in this country. Maybe even the world. Another feather in our many-feathered cap.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here with a daydream that might not ever happen.

Writes Daniel, “Though I’m reticent to criticize you …”

Let’s stop right there and make a little prediction. How many folks want to bet that the next word in Daniel’s email will be a great big “but”.

That’s certainly what I thought, but turns out I was wrong.

Daniel continues with “lest you tear apart my email in a future column …”

I wouldn’t dream of it, Daniel.

“Your most recent column inspired me to respond.”

I get an extra five bucks in the old paycheck every time I inspire someone, so this pleases me greatly.

“You said that because leaf blowers are used by people to do their jobs, they deserve our support, not our disdain.”

I did say that, and a lot more. The folks using leaf blowers to complete their daily task of keeping this town’s lawn debris in check are generally not at the top of the economic ladder, especially in Davis. They need to complete a number of jobs quickly in order to make ends meet. Leaf blowers help them do that.

“As you know,” Daniel continues, “part of my comprehensive City Council platform in 2010 recommended a ban on leaf blowers.”

Actually, it slipped my mind, so thanks for the reminder.

“No one is disparaging the people who use leaf blowers.”

Of course they aren’t. They just want to take away their livelihood. And please don’t tell me they can do the job just as quickly with a rake.

“The problem isn’t with the people, but the machines themselves. Just because someone uses a particular technology to do their job doesn’t mean the technology is benevolent.”

I’m not arguing benevolence. I’m arguing minor inconvenience to our everyday lives. Let’s say three people — or lawn services — on your street use a leaf blower once a week after the lawn is mowed. Probably 15 minutes max, per job.

Are you aware, Daniel, there are 10,080 minutes in a week? And you can’t give these hard-working lawn folks 15 of those — or 45 for the whole block – to do their dirty work?

“Technology has drawbacks; it affects people other than those who use it. Farmers used DDT to efficiently eradicate pests, but we banned it when we realized DDT’s externalities outweighed its benefits. Asbestos insulates like no other material, but I causes cancer, so it’s banned.”

You’re comparing apples with asbestos here, Daniel. Those leaf blowers are not loaded with DDT and they don’t kick up asbestos. No one’s getting cancer from exposure to leaf blowers.

“Leaf blowers create noise pollution and air pollution. They kick up dust, making sidewalks impassable for kids walking to school.”


I have many times passed folks using a leaf blower while walking the kids to or from school, and have never had our progress impeded. In fact, those wielding these noisy backpacks are invariably polite as they turn their machines away to allow us to pass.

Adds Daniel: “They wake up people who work the night shift and need to sleep at 7 a.m.”

Well, DWR’s “jaws” makes an awful lot of noise as it scrapes leaves off the pavement long before the sun rises, but like our friendly leaf blowers, it gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

Our city buses make noise. Trains makes noise and frequently block our roadways. Davis High School football games make noise. For crying out loud, the Aggie Band-uh makes noise.

Live and let live.

— Reach Bob Dunning at


Discussion | 15 comments

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  • Rich RifkinNovember 02, 2013 - 8:29 pm

    "Just imagine, if Daniel runs and wins, and Dan Wolk happens to lose his race for the 4th Assembly District seat, we’ll have two Daniels on the same council. That would certainly be a first in this town’s history ..." True. Dan Wolk is the only person named Daniel to have ever served on our City Council, thus far. But did you know that we have had one Tom, three Dicks and three Harrys? Oddly enough, two of the Dicks (Holdstock and Weinstock) served on the Council at the same time, when, odder still, Dick Nixon was president.

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  • AileenNovember 02, 2013 - 11:38 pm

    Next thing Daniel will want to ban will be power lawn mowers! Good grief!

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  • Rich RifkinNovember 03, 2013 - 11:35 am

    Aileen, I recall when Julie Partansky was our mayor, she did propose to ban power lawn mowers, and largely for the same reasons many don't like gas-powered leaf blowers: noise, gasoline fumes, pollution, etc. On that same Council was Susie Boyd, and Mrs. Boyd argued the opposite: that her gas-powered lawn mower empowered her to take care of her own lawn.

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  • November 03, 2013 - 1:56 am

    Good Power Points Richey!

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  • Brian SchrothNovember 03, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    I don't think anyone is talking about taking away someone's livelihood, just changing the way they do it. There are many of us who feel that piling on more and more sources of noise pollution reduces the quality of life. In the case of leaf blowers, it is made worse by burning up more fossil fuels to save 10-15 minutes of work on a typical tract-house property. Live and let live is not the point here - it's what we decide as a community what is tolerable and what isn't. Leaf blowers save muscle effort and only a modest amount of time. Meanwhile, we have to put up with a drone of noise - there are many going in any neighborhood over the course of an average morning, not just once a week for 15 minutes. And collectively we create all the more greenhouse gas just so someone can save the effort of raking. There are broader issues here than just efficiency.

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  • Ron GlickNovember 03, 2013 - 7:54 pm

    Although you claim it takes 10-15 minutes more by hand you really don't know how much longer it will take. My guess it will take longer than that and require more effort. Still I think we can all agree that if it takes longer we can expect the lawn care industry to adjust prices. The question then becomes are people willing to pay the extra expense for raking over blowing?

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  • Kevin ShafferNovember 03, 2013 - 9:21 pm

    Some of readers have more patience than I for candidates like Mr Watts. Let him focus on unjust water rates, consistent school taxes that support the few over the many, bikers who don't yield let alone stop at stop signs, or perhaps small, innovative businesses that struggle to make it in this small town. Mr Watts high ideals translate into simplistic, elitist soap boxing. Let Davisites live their lives. People here are responsible and thoughtful, so candidates for office should focus on real issues to aid this community.

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  • Get a lifeNovember 03, 2013 - 10:39 pm

    Daniel needs to find something better to do with his time. He does not even live in Davis

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  • DanielNovember 04, 2013 - 1:33 am

    I need something better to do with my time? How long, exactly, do you think it took me to write a letter to my good friend Bob? Maybe you type slower than me.

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  • DanielNovember 04, 2013 - 1:30 am

    Easy there, fellas. Palo Alto banned leaf blowers. Everyone survived. It's going to be okay.

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  • November 04, 2013 - 7:17 am

    Hey Daniel, no problem. Just make sure to let everyone know that you want to ban leaf blowers before you run for election so we know who not to vote for.

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  • Brian RileyNovember 04, 2013 - 8:35 am

    If they would use electric leaf blowers instead of gas-powered leaf blowers, no one would be complaining about noise. All they have to do is find a place to plug it in, which shouldn't be too hard.

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  • DougNovember 04, 2013 - 9:43 am

    For me, it's all about weighing the pros and the cons. And I have concluded that the negatives of leaf blowers outweigh the positives. I'm willing to spend the extra time or pay more to have my yard cleaned up the "old-fashioned" way. Perhaps, this would be best put up for a city-wide vote, instead of leaving the decision to our city council. And we do love to vote on everything in this town, so it's a perfect solution.

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  • RobertNovember 04, 2013 - 1:36 pm

    Why don't they just burn the leaves or put them in plastic bags...whoops, can't do either of those things in Davis. Put the leaves in plastic bags then burn the bags and throw the leaf blower's blowers on top.

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  • November 04, 2013 - 2:25 pm

    Funnt this gent should mention negative externalities, a real $5 phrase there ... how about the visual pollution of solar panel installations? And if I recall some past reading, I do beleive that DDT saved millions upon millons of lives, and allowed critical projects like the Panama Canal to be built... which, in turn, if you believe in the so-called "Global Warming" hypothesis, means we cut billions of tons of Co2 from oing into the atmosphere. But what I'd really like to know is if this potential candidate knows if our local retirement / pension plans are solvent? Lord knows the State and Feds have kicked the can down the highway. I'd think finances would rank a lot higher than an ocassional leaf blower.

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