The anti-leaf blower group Quiet Orinda came before the Orinda City Council on Tuesday to ask for a night to make their pitch for a ban on the ubiquitous engines. They got exactly what they asked for — almost before they could ask for it. The council approved the group's request and made room to hear its presentation at its Nov. 16 meeting.
"Ten months ago, I brought to your attention that debris blowers have caused intolerable health problems," Quiet Orinda co-founder Peter Kendall told Mayor Thomas McCormick and the three council members in attendance. "What we're asking for is agenda time; an opportunity to present the case for an Orinda without leaf blowers."
Maya McBride spent her three minutes before the council stressing the personal toll leaf blowers have taken on her family. "We left a relatively noisy neighborhood in Berkeley to come to Orinda. Every Saturday, four of six properties that surround us use the same yard service from 1 to 5 p.m."
She hasn't had a party, gathering, or even a conversation in her own back yard in years. "The current noise ordinance doesn't properly address the problem," she said. "I would like to see agenda time given – for the sake of my family's health."
Susan Kendall called use of the back-borne blowers "prolific," and said they have led to a "cascade of negative health effects."
At that point in the meeting, as the fourth speaker, Joan Chomak, took her place at the microphone, council member Steven Glazer interrupted. He asked City Attorney Osa Wolff if the council could put the issue on an upcoming agenda.
Wolf replied, "Yes."
Glazer presented a motion, council member Sue Severson seconded, McCormick called a vote, "ayes" were said, and Quiet Orinda's issue was on the agenda.
McCormick asked if, given the approval, the rest of the public comments were necessary.
"Not if you give us a date," Herb Brown, one of the group's supporters, called out.
After a brief back and forth, City Manager Janet Keeter said the second meeting in November was a likely date.
Chomak, still standing at the podium, said she wanted a moment to speak. "In 2003, my husband and I were involved in the noise-ordinance planning," she began. Chomak said she had been quieted then, but wanted to speak now. She voiced her support for Quiet Orinda, and, having finally had her say, returned to her seat.
With that, the council moved on to the rest of the night's agenda.
Before Tuesday's meeting, Quiet Orinda's Kendall said, "The issue was visited in '04 and it exhausted everyone, based on my interpretations. This council is on record waffling or dismissing the issue. I sense that they're reluctant to address it again. So how do you encourage them to address it? With education and information."
Armed with studies, data, petitions and letters of support, Quiet Orinda arrived at the council meeting ready to make noise about being quiet. On Nov. 16, it appears it will have an audience and what it most wanted: agenda time.