How to get my town to ban leaf burning?

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How to get my town to ban leaf burning?

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:02 pm

How to get my town to ban leaf burning?
November 19, 2013 2:39 PM

A year and a half ago I moved to a small town in Illinois that allows leaf burning. It is obnoxious. A local group has tried for years to ban the practice (via petitions, complaining at city council meetings, etc.), but have not been successful against the entrenched supporters of the leaf burning (several of whom serve on the city council.) I'm looking for some creative suggestions for getting the leaf burning snuffed out.
posted by JeffL to human relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Can you offer a more appealing alternative, rather than an outright ban? Such as, in my town people rake their leaves into the street, then the city collects them, composts them and sells the compost.
posted by florencetnoa at 2:52 PM on November 19 [3 favorites]

Out here in the SF Bay Area, the Air District does a hell of a lot of good work with "Spare The Air", including designating days by weather conditions for which wood burning is illegal. They do great things.

Do you have a local air quality control board that you can partner with? Searching on "Illinois air quality" brings up Partners for Clean Air, which might give you some good allies in going after this sort of pollution...
posted by straw at 2:53 PM on November 19

Can you offer a more appealing alternative, rather than an outright ban? Such as, in my town people rake their leaves into the street, then the city collects them, composts them and sells the compost.

My understanding is that those ideas have been proposed, and rejected by the city council.

The price of yard waste pickup has apparently declined a lot in the last few years (compared to what it used to be, I'm told) and is ridiculously cheap. It seems to me that the reason the burning continues is because a small, entrenched minority resist any change. Also: This is a college town, and there's some "town and gown" conflict that plays a role as well.
posted by JeffL at 3:01 PM on November 19

it's possible that you might be able to get relief from this issue at the county board level depending on the size of the city.

also you might want to examine the legal route. a class action lawsuit from people in the town who have breathing issues would probably cause things to move a little faster in the town council.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 3:14 PM on November 19

Run for city council and/or campaign against the entrenched supporters of policies you dislike.
posted by ook at 3:24 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

First I should ask, is your problem that you personally don't like the smell/smoke of leaf burning, or that you have a serious medical condition?

The reason I ask, is that if the city council has already turned down all attempts to ban leaf burning, even with an alternative leaf disposal method already in place, you're probably fighting a losing battle. However, if your disdain is due to a medical condition that is something more than "makes me feel not quite right," than you may be able to go the legal route and file a law suit (note: IAMAL).
posted by Shouraku at 3:29 PM on November 19

suing would be a tough road: probably expensive, questionable odds, and likely to alienate people.
posted by jpe at 4:16 PM on November 19

The answer to questions like this is always this.

That article uses an example campaign ("Complete Streets"), but that's really irrelevant. Just substitute "Banning Leaf Burning" into the article whenever you see "Complete Streets" and there you have your answer.

Now it sounds like your leaf burning issue is very entrenched in the community, with different factions taking different sides, and so on. So it may literally take years of coalition building, talking to community groups, and the like to turn this around (an example of how that was done here--again substitute your issue for the one named but follow the same exact coalition-building procedures and you're golden).

You're talking about a much harder issue here than just going and talking to the city council for 10 minutes or doing some kind of clever stunt and problem solved instantly.
posted by flug at 7:17 PM on November 19

source ... af-burning
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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