HYATTSVILLE – Emotions ran high in the council chambers, as two city councilmen with two separate pieces of legislation on the same topic came head-to-head in a recent meeting in Hyattsville. As the city moves toward obtaining its goals of sustainability and promoting a safe and vibrant community, both Councilman Joseph Solomon and Council Vice […]
HYATTSVILLE – Emotions ran high in the council chambers, as two city councilmen with two separate pieces of legislation on the same topic came head-to-head in a recent meeting in Hyattsville.
As the city moves toward obtaining its goals of sustainability and promoting a safe and vibrant community, both Councilman Joseph Solomon and Council Vice President Bart Lawrence introduced legislation to prevent the use of pesticides and herbicides in the city.
“In my initial preparation for discussion on this ordinance, I looked a number of studies to share with the council for reviewing and developing an overall opinion on the impact of pesticides,” Solomon said.
In their motions, both Lawrence and Solomon acknowledged the need to limit harmful chemicals within the city. They both cited studies, which indicated possible carcinogens in pesticides and the increased chance of childhood cancers with continual exposure to such chemicals.
“Adopting the Hyattsville Sustainable Land and Building Management Practices will, in most instances, eliminate toxic pesticides in and on city owned and leased property in order to promote a healthy environment, and protect the public and city employees form the risks of pesticides,” Lawrence wrote in his motion. “The practices will also ensure that city departments and city contractors implement sustainable land and building management practices at all city owned and leased properties.”
The councilmen initially worked on legislation together, but Lawrence said after realizing differences in how the two wanted to carry out their plans, he felt more “comfortable” going it alone.
“Mr. Solomon and I did make quite an effort to reconcile the two and in the end I felt comfortable going forward on my motion alone because I felt it encompasses the matter that I wanted to address,” Lawrence said.
Both councilmembers brought their motions to experts on the matter, including Hyattsville Department of Public Works Director Lesley Riddle, who worked on the pesticide legislation in Greenbelt. While both address the restriction of pesticides on city property, Solomon said his would also include public education on the harmful effects and, initially, include restrictions on households.
“I think that mine really focuses on community engagement in developing policy rather than us passing a policy as a city council because none of us are environmentalist,” Solomon said.
Solomon’s motion had wording which would require residents using pesticides in their gardens or lawns to indicate they are doing so. Many of the councilmembers said they did not believe this was enforceable.
Councilwoman Paula Perry said she does not want the city to go into a “police state” where residents snitch on their neighbors and the city swoops in and tests the soil.
Councilman Patrick Paschall said he supports the idea of “eliminating the environmental impact” of the city’s use of pesticides and influencing residents’ decisions through a public campaign, but he does not think either legislative motion is ready for action. He also said he doubts many of the regulations on citizens are enforceable.
“My view is that neither of these motions are ready for that kind of discussion right now,” Paschall said. “I don’t think that there is a way for us, and I’m certainly open to hearing this, to put such a restriction on residential use in a way that is actually enforceable.”
Perry said she was tired of wasting time at council meetings, and this is a prime example of a waste of time. She compared the two legislations to a “pissing contest.”
“Everybody complains that we waste time. Well this is the biggest waste of time, because we’re talking about two motions that want to get to the same outcome and that’s what we’ve got to look at,” she said. “Somebody may write something differently than the other. Who cares? Let’s just put things together.”
In attempt to move the conversation along, Solomon said he would make the sign postage on yards with pesticides an opt-in program, and would change some wording to streamline the motion.
Councilmember Edouard Haba moved to send the two motions to staff for review and integration them to one motion, but the motion failed in a three-to-eight vote because most of the council did not want to put the burden on staff.
The council agreed to meet with city executives to discuss further action. The motions were set for voting on Nov. 2, however the future of the motions is unclear.