June Actions Critical for Portland Pesticide Ordinance
by Bridget Chase
Last month important progress was made toward adopting a Portland pesticide ordinance to reduce the use, misuse and overuse of pesticides and fertilizers. The Council at the May 16th meeting unanimously approved Councilor, and Chair of the Energy and Conservation Committee, Jon Hick’s order to appoint members for the Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force.
The Task Force, lead by Councilor Nicholas Mavadones, ambitiously agreed to present a draft Pesticide and Fertilizer Ordinance for review at the Energy and Conservation Committee on July 11th and present the draft ordinance for approval at the June 20th Council meeting.
The first hurdle for the Task Force is to meet this aggressive timetable. Councilor Mavodones needs to bring the Task Force together on a near-weekly basis during June and July to education the Task Force, review similar legislation from other communities (such as South Portland) and draft the Portland ordinance.
The position of the three-member Committee responsible for the ordinance is complicated. Councilor Hinck has made the reduction of pesticides a cornerstone of his Council career. He is posed to support the proposed ordinance assuming there are no significant delays in the approval process. His term ends later this year. It is a real possibility, if either deadline is not met, that the Portland pesticide ordinance will face passage without its strongest advocate on the Council to help.
The other two members on the Energy and Conservation Committee do not seem to share Hink’s urgency for this ordinance. District 2’s West End Councilor Spencer Thibodeau has recused himself from this issue because of work conflicts. His reasons for taking this action are inconsistent. He says he cannot speak on private use issues only public use concerns. The Councilor can and has voted for the creation of the Task Force at Council meetings, but he continues to recues himself from discussions at the Energy and Conservation Committee meetings.
As a result of Councilor Thibodeau’s position, the proposed ordinance will go to the July 20th Council meeting solely on the vote of Councilor Suslovic, who has expressed interest in the ordinance, but has not demonstrated much leadership when it comes to this issue.
The Council first began discussing some form of a pesticide ban in 2000, but has not been able to pass an ordinance. Councilor Hinck is optimistic that now is the time for Portland to make the passage of this ordinance a reality.
A good template is already in place thanks to the work done by South Portland’s City Council. Also, the need for this type of an ordinance is bolstered by announcements like the recent one from The World Health Organization designating the active ingredient in Roundup as a probable carcinogen linked to other serious disorders.
The viability of the ordinance is further reinforced by the growing number communities in Maine and beyond that are pleased with the results of going organic. Eldredge Hardware stores in York County reported a 30 percent increase in sales from their lawn and garden departments after swapping synthetic pesticides for organics.
The strongest advocates for a Portland pesticide ordinance are home grown according to Council Hinck.
The Councilor believes that the ten-member task force, with their diverse perspectives surrounding pesticide and fertilizer use, are brought together by the desire to give voice to “… the majority of people in Portland (that) would be pleased to see us scale back on the use of chemical pesticides and be a city that demonstrates the efficacy of the alternatives. “
The Portland Protectors is a grassroots organization that was formed in the last year to see to the passage of a Portland pesticide ordinance. Co-founder Avery Yale Kamila explains “… Portland Protectors is hopeful [that] the task force will be able to draft an ordinance well-suited to Portland’s unique needs, that builds upon the extensive work done to create the South Portland ordinance and that will provide much-needed protections to kids, pollinators, pets, wildlife and Casco Bay.”
Task force member Jesse O’Brien, a Portland resident and owner of Down East Turf Farms in Kennebunk, has been involved in the green industry since he was in high school. His interest in serving on the task force is to make sure the proposed ordinance has a strong education component. He feels that if used properly synthetic pesticides have a role in protecting the environment.
Tim Currie, manager of Maine Hardware, is serving on the task force because he wants to make sure that the store is on top of this issue in order to best serve its customers. For a complete list of task force members go to www.portlandmaine.gov/1774/Pesticide-and-Fertilizer-Task-Force.
The opportunity before Portland reminds Councilor Hinck of Margaret Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
West End News readers that want to take a more active role to ensure the passage of a Portland pesticide ordinance can do so in a number of ways:
Contact Council members, especially those most involved with getting the draft ordinance to the Council on July 20th.
Councilor Nicholas Mavodones
Councilor Spencer Thibodeau
Councilor Edward Suslovic
Councilor Jon Hinck
- Support the Portland Protectors. Individuals can choose to support the organization in a number of ways: sign its pesticide reduction petition (change.org/p/portland-city-council-ban-pesticides-in-portland-maine), display a Bee Safe poster on your lawn or garden, sign up for e-mail updates and/or make a contribution toward the production of the Bee posters. Posters are free, but cost $5 to produce. Go to the Portland Protectors Facebook page to get involved.
- Reduce or eliminate your use of synthetic pesticides like Roundup. A good local resource for growing and maintaining healthy plants for humans, wildlife, pollinators and waterways is the website for the Portland Pollinators (portlandpollinators.org). The Portland Pollinators have a sign you can print and post in support of safe habitats. Another informative site is UMaine’s Cooperative Extension (www.extension.umaine.edu).
Bridget Chase is a freelance writer who lives in the West End and loves it.