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Dear Decaturish – Maybe leaf blowers don’t matter, but what about democracy?

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Dear Decaturish – Maybe leaf blowers don’t matter, but what about democracy?

Gas powered leaf blower. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Dear Decaturish,

Imagine the day before an election going online and checking to make sure your polling place hasn’t moved since the last time you voted – flippin’ open your wallet to make sure your driver’s license is where it’s supposed to be – and, maybe lastly, checking to confirm when your polling place opens and closes. My voting routine looks something like that.

Imagine doing all of your homework to come up with the candidates who you believe will have your best interests at heart.  Maybe you even throw fifty bucks at their campaign and put their yard sign in your yard and their bumper sticker on your car.

Now imagine that the candidate that you’re doing this for doesn’t actually do anything. They have no power. They do nothing. They just have their picture in your yard and the name on your car’s bumper.

HB 1301 suggests that’s where we could be headed. HB 1301, if passed, would strip your local policymakers – your mayor, your county commissioner – from passing any ordinance that banned or restricted the use of the gasoline-powered leaf blower. It’s called a preemptive law.  It’s a law that miraculously gets passed after enough industry lobbyists see the writing on the wall and then say something like, “Uh, oh. We gotta stop this thing.”

In this case, the “thing” being bans on gasoline-powered leaf blowers. So, they come up with a HB 1301 to bring any local governments’ ban against the blowers to a screeching halt.

Today it’s about leaf blowers, but this type of legislation is precedent-setting. If passed, the door is propped wide open for future preemptive legislation on just about anything you can name, any industry that suddenly feels it needs a little protection and has the funds to buy it.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the gasoline-powered leaf blower. My local mayors and county commissioners have suffered many of my emails.  We are often at odds with each other over the issue. Still, they respond with thoughtful emails and sometimes join me for a beer to hash out an issue and to help me understand “what’s taking so long.” In the case of the leaf blowers, one of the things that’s taking so long is that my mayors and commissioners are being thoughtful and systematic and doing their homework and benchmarking and looking at things like “incentives” and “financial assistance” to help the landscaping industry move as painlessly as possible away from the gasoline-powered leaf blowers. They are doing all things that take into consideration their own local constituents and local landscaping industry.  They are doing those things that we expected them to do when we put their yard sign in our yard and their bumper sticker on our car and showed up that day and voted for them.  They are my Democracy in action, a Democracy whose effectiveness no industry lobbyist or state representative from St. Simons Island has any right to dilute with HB 1301.

So, Representative Hogan, if you’ll please rock your own baby there on St. Simon’s Island, and leave us to rock our own here in Decatur, DeKalb, and Avondale Estates and every other local municipality in the state of Georgia, we’ll thank you very much because, in the words of Charlie Daniels, “We may have done a little fightin’ among ourselves, but you outside folks best leave us alone.”

– Nancy Luana

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