For Our Children

Monday, December 17, 2018

For Our Children
Why cities legislate organics without fear or disruption
By Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea

The Irvine City Council’s nearly 3-year-old Organic Pesticide Use policy today is safe from federal harm.

Section 9101 of H.R. 2, the Agricultural Act of 2018 (Farm Bill), which would have tied the hands of local governments in their ability to restrict pesticides use, this month was removed from the final federal bill.

Through pressure from my advocacy efforts, including meeting with legislators in Washington, D.C., letter-writing campaigns from the Irvine City Council and cities around the nation, our California congressional delegation, the League of California Cities, as well as the National League of Cities, the health and well-being of our children and others will continue.

American cities need to regulate their own pesticide use; the City of Irvine has chosen to do so to protect children playing in our parks, by using an organics-first program.

When I brought an organic pesticides policy to my fellow City Councilmembers in 2016, I was determined to set an exemplary standard for our City, and to provide a replicable standard that our nation’s communities could follow. Since that time, numerous cities and agencies have contacted Irvine for information regarding our policy and our complementary athletic fields maintenance procedures. Our policy requires we use organic-first efforts on all city-owned property, parks, and playgrounds. We do this so that children of all ages, whether they are kicking a soccer ball in competition or burrowing their little heads into soft grass, can be assured of a safe environment.

When I was made aware of an obscure, but potentially devastating, addition to the federal Farm Bill earlier this year, I needed to act. At risk were more than 150 local ordinances banning or restricting toxic pesticides, including more than 25 in California, including Irvine. Following my original letter to congressional leaders sounding the alarm, “This would not only preempt future ordinances, but could retroactively eliminate existing local pesticide laws,” Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner followed suit by writing a City Council-approved letter to Congress also seeking to protect local government from preemption.

Irvine is renowned for its master plan and for its draw to families looking for a community in which to raise their children. I know we continue to embrace a lifestyle that is safe, nurturing, and healthy. As a City Council, we implement these ideals as a standard policy.

I fought this battle and we won. And collectively as a unified voice of local governments, we have succeeded in protecting local control.

Christina Shea is Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Irvine. She was first elected to the City Council in 1992.