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Los Angeles County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter


By Jeff Duclos

Candidate for City Council; City of Hermosa Beach

This information is provided by the candidate
This opinion Piece ran in The Torrance Daily Breeze in 2004. The City Council rejected the opportunity to extend the Pesticide Free Zone. In part, it is why I am running.
All who reside in Hermosa Beach have the power to make it a healthier place to live. The catch is it requires deliberate action on our part to define this vision of a healthier community and to evoke this power by connecting with others who share this vision. Since first being exposed (literally) to Hermosa Beach's practice of applying pesticides and herbicides to the City's open space areas more than five years ago, I have learned that there are safer, nontoxic ways to maintain these areas. A change of ways is needed.

Like a growing list of cities and school districts across the state (including the Los Angeles Unified School District), I believe Hermosa Beach should adhere to the "Precautionary Principle" + the idea that we are better safe than sorry. Efforts should be directed at protecting our most sensitive population + seniors, children and pets + at our most sensitive sites: parks and open space recreational areas. I believe our City should pay a little more to eliminate chemical spraying in our recreational areas, even if it means paying a little less for things not as directly related to our health and our quality of life. I believe it is worth an extra $2,000 a month from the General Fund Budget to end an avoidable health risk in the City. For little more than one-tenth of one percent of the General Fund Budget, Hermosa Beach can be the first city in the South Bay to use, clean, non-chemical controls for maintaining its open space areas. I believe there is economic value to this claim. It speaks to the kind of community in which many people would like to live, work and visit.

The City Council's recent rejection of a recommendation of the Parks, Recreation and Community Resources Commission to allocate this small increase to the City's landscaping contract to expand the pesticide free zone, demonstrates a different collective view.

The "Pesticide Free Zone," which currently runs along the Greenbelt between Gould and Pier avenues, is the result of a staff recommendation brought before the Council on July 27, 1999 which passed by a vote of 3-to-2. Dissenting votes were cast by current City Council member J.R. Revizcky and former Council member John Bowler. Ironically, they later would be two of the more vocal supporters of the failed effort to gain public approval for paving over 15 feet or more of our sand beach to build a cement roadway for wheeled traffic (Measure W). This failed attempt has led to the now circulating ballot initiative to protect our undeveloped recreational beach area from development.

The "Pesticide Free Zone" is a case study of how a community and those hired and elected to serve it, can come together to establish sound policy. Working on this issue with the City Manager, the Director of Public Works and staff, were local horticulturists, members of the community action group V.O.I.C.E, and the City of Santa Monica's Environmental Program Division, which had already successfully instituted such a plan. Monsanto also had a member of its "Environmental Operations Division" participate in the meetings.

It is important to note that this "test zone" was to be reviewed quarterly and that by June 30, 2000, the City was to establish a permanent policy. Instead, the issue had slowly died on the vine until, after witnessing a massive spray down of Valley Park shortly after it had re-opened to the public, it was taken to the Parks & Recreation Commission during the summer of 2003. This process eventually led to the Commission's recommendation to spend the additional money to implement the change. A compelling reason for the City to act on this issue now is that its landscaping contract is a three year agreement and is up for renewal.

We are all well aware that these are tough financial times for cities throughout California, but my fear is that the refrain of "no money" can be to easily used to dismiss ventures which our representatives do not embrace. Money does seem to be there for some projects. The Hermosa Beach City Council recently authorized $35,000 for the first phase of its WiFi/wireless broadband system, with an estimated additional expenditure of $50,000 down the line and annual recurring costs of nearly $20,000 also penciled in. The City is moving forward on this project, regardless of Budget concerns, because it believes this technology is a forward thinking approach to government. The same rationale can be invoked regarding switching to alternatives to pesticides, except, in this instance, the benefits are immediate.

In a typical year, according to the Pesticide Watch Network, one fourth of the pesticides used in the U.S. are used in California, though the state represents less than 3% of the cultivated acreage in the nation. California simultaneously leads the nation in agricultural production and listed endangered species. The herbicide Roundup, produced by Monsanto and currently favored by the City, is a billion dollar product that generates an estimated 40% of Monsanto's revenue. With the agrochemical industry's powerful state lobby and global chemical companies investing vast sums to shape public and political opinion, it is no wonder that the growing movement for pesticide reform is emanating from the bottom up + from counties and cities throughout the state.

At that July, 1999 City Council meeting Council member Sam Edgerton asked then Public Works Director Harold Williams if he thought the use of these chemicals was "harmful to the environment?," Mr. Williams answer was "In my opinion, yes." Nothing has happened in the intervening years to change that perception.

We are in the midst of a national election year where the stakes are high and the issues are great. Let us not lose sight of the fact that change begins at home.

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