Yes We Can!
A Strong Pesticide Ordinance for Portland
by Bridget Chase
In January, Portland’s Pesticide and Fertilizer task force resumed work on a draft pesticide reduction ordinance. The task force was created in May of 2016 and first met in June. Expectations were high that creating a strong pesticide ordinance for Portland would be swift since the South Portland City Council was already reviewing a draft pesticide ordinance. However, the full charge of Portland’s Pesticide and Fertilizer Task force is ”…to review the South Portland ordinance and other ordinances in other jurisdictions, as well as scientific literature regarding the effect of pesticides on public health and the environment.”
The City Councils of Portland and South Portland have the same goal when it comes to pesticide use. Namely, to protect the health and well being of its people, waterways, animals and plant life. But, their approaches could not be more different. The South Portland City Council directed members of City staff to draft an ordinance, and they did so in fourteen months. The Portland City Council created a task force that represents shareholders covering a spectrum of opinions from pesticide applicators to the founder of a citizen action group opposed to pesticide use. The Pesticide and Fertilizer task force has met for just eight months.
Task Force Precedent
Portland’s City Council has a precedent for using task forces and work groups to address pressing environment issues. Both the sustainable storm water funding and green packaging ordinances began with a task force or work group, consisting of people who had many different views. This approach takes time to find common ground that works for all involved. But it does work, as seen with the passage and smooth enactment of the storm water and green packaging ordinances. These task forces met for one to two years.
Support for a strong pesticide ordinance continues to gain traction at City Hall. Mayor Ethan Strimling stated in his State of the City address on January 9th that the passage of both a pesticide and a fertilizer ordinance are environmental priorities for this year.
Councilor Spencer Thibodeau chairs the Sustainability and Transportation Committee that will review the task force’s pesticide draft before sending it to the City Council for final approval. His involvement is limited due to work conflicts. Thibodeau considers his position on pesticide use for private land easy to deduce based on his consistent support of reduced use on public land. He also considers the return of Councilor Jill Duson to the Sustainability Committee a plus. Duson has been on the Council for sixteen years and has chaired this committee as well as co-chaired the 2008 Sustainable Portland report.
What does this mean for WEN readers and the City of Portland? We need to be patient and trust the process, but not silently. Voice your opinion to the task force and your Councilors. Attend public hearings about the pesticide ordinance when it comes before the Sustainability Committee and City Council. Your voice is needed to ensure that Portland has a strong and effective pesticide reduction ordinance.
Voice Your Opinion
Troy Moon, Portland’s Sustainability Coordinator is the liaison to the Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force. Send your thoughts to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Council, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses are all found on the City’s website, www.portlandmaine.gov/132/City-Council. Councilor Nick Mavodones is the chair of the task force. Councilors serving on the Sustainability Committee are Spencer Thibodeau, Jill Duson and Belinda Ray. All Councilors will vote on this issue.
Bridget is a freelance writer who lives in the West End and loves it.