Tell it Like It Is

CH&H/Literary Division Report

Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2000
From: CH&H/Literary Division
Subject: Re: Do you know there's whey in San Jose?
To: Jim Buckley ,
Cc: "Kenneth B. Finney"


We were mashed, unanimously, in San Jose this afternoon. Unanimously and somewhat impatiently. I did manage to distribute copies of the Wash St. Admin Code sections on the protocol for fireplace emissions controls, and the bar-graph memo from Tiegs to Jeff ..... counsel Finney felt it important to get these bits into the hands of the Council before they concluded their deliberations (ha!!), as foundation for arguments he will make in our suit.

We could have presented Jesus Christ to testify on the sanctifying effects of woodsmoke, and these folks wouldn't have been swayed. They actually appeared to be annoyed at our intrusion into their crusade. I was chided for not attending last year's staff meetings on the issue, and now complaining about being excluded from Committee deliberations. I was assured that our being excluded from the Committee meeting was of no importance; there were many others there making arguments both pro and con. And finally, City Attorney Brian (talk real slow and don't move your eyes) Doyle opined that "all requirements of the Brown Act had been satisfied." Not that it makes any difference, but these folks really take legal protections and procedural integrity very lightly. I really shouldn't feel too badly.... They did give me the full two minutes to present our case. (One witness -- a very nice guy with asthmatic children and a hyper-olfactorily sensitive wife -- got almost four minutes. His Tiny Tim could've licked our Jesus.)

John Crouch did get one member's ear, when he corrected Tommi Mayfields' assertion that Petaluma had adopted an ordinance "just like this one." John pointed out that the Petaluma ordinance permits woodburning appliances, proven -- to the satisfaction of the City Engineer (or Building Inspector) -- to be equivalent to EPA certified woodstoves. One member of the SJ Council had the temerity to ask City Attorney Brian (Don't nobody move, or I'll shoot myself in the foot!) Doyle if that were true. Doyle, of course, hadn't the faintest fucking notion, but promised to try to get the answer for her "sometime before Second Reading." This is a real crackerjack outfit, and the proud ruling elite of the second largest city in the state.

The matter will be calendared for Second Reading in two weeks, but they really needn't wait. After a unanimous vote, I'm no more likely to get someone to sit down and listen to me than I was before. Were you guys down in the Southbay burning villages and boiling babies before your retained me, or what????

We need to caucus soon, to critique our strategy, to plan how we might use the OMNI test results, to update ourselves on the litigation and get agreement on our goals and timetable, etc.

CH&H/Literary Division

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From: Jim Buckley
Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2000 11:24:42 -0700
To: CH&H/Literary Division,
Cc: "Kenneth B. Finney"
Subject: Re: Do you know there's whey in San Jose?


Good job, LD. It's a pleasure to read your reports and analyses even as we go down to resounding defeat.

I know how to organize (I remember from the 1960's) and I did a poor job. I needed to call our potential supporters weeks ago, follow up, meet with them, make sure they understood the issues, put it in their own words and wrung commitments out of them to make themselves heard. And then follow up. Nevertheless, I was disappointed that apparently none of them showed up for the meeting after I called, faxed or emailed all three of our dealers in the area and over twenty architects, builders and masons on Monday and Tuesday morning.

I think the lawsuit has merit and is worth pursuing no matter what we do politically. How does Ken feel?

But maybe now is the time to consider if we want to keep on fighting politically. Perhaps we should go with the flow and promote gas logs in masonry fireplaces. My sense of the situation is that, if we keep losing the wood burning issue, we need to actively market gas logs in masonry fireplaces - now and effectively - or the word on the street will be that fireplaces are banned and home buyers and home builders won't even consider anything other than gas zeros. Counselwoman Charlotte Powers said, "[W]e are not banning fireplaces. The proposed ordinance requires either gas or pellet burning substances, instead of wood." But that's a subtle distinction and even our architect friend didn't understand at first that he could still specify a Rumford if he put a gas log set in it.

You know, the OMNI official results will be presented at an all day meeting in Portland OR, June 12. It's supposed to be an industry caucus strategy meeting and the "results" will have just been presented to hizzoner George of N. Sonoma on the 8th. Will you or Jeff be coming to Portland? One idea Jerry Frisch had was to petition EPA to certify fireplaces based on the new test data. Then we could be "EPA Certified" and included in the language adopted by the BAAQMD and the Palo Alto and San Jose ordinances.


Jim Buckley

Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2000 14:41:31 -0700
From: CH&H/Literary Division
Subject: Re: Do you know there's whey in San Jose?
To: Jim Buckley ,
Cc: "Kenneth B. Finney"


I very much appreciate your thoughts, but don't give yourself too much of an asskicking. We DID get the word out, last week. Spoke to many of the folks, if just to confirm their fax numbers and give them the briefest of "heads-up"s. Many of the folks we talked to said something like "we saw this coming, no surprise", or "my business has shifted to other areas (of masonry)". Others just felt impotent to affect the public process. So don't smudge too much ash for being delinquent on the "notice" front.

And, we don't know how many of our contactees may have been unable to come to the meeting, but may have called a Councilperson or two (that was what MY letter was requesting, which was faxed out with yours, by MG&A).

We seem to be dealing with multiple disadvantages: we're coming late to a party that, apparently, was well underway a year or two ago in some jurisdictions; our natural constituency (masons, architects, designers) is too small to have much clout or savvy and too large to be invisible to the grim eye of the PM fanatics (as, for example, outside woodburning devices are); we can't seem to shake the impression that, because we are opposed to the BAAQMD's "model" ordinance, we are anti-air quality. We haven't been able to shake the image of industry assholes, a la tobacco, big oil, etc. The combination of all of the above permits cynical politicians (and show me one that ain't) to stand up against industry despoilers, strike a resounding blow for the environment and for public health, without offending any significant political players. The "no-growth"ers don't care, and the goddam builders don't seem to care either. We're a freaking poster child, for a candidate's campaign literature. The folks who testify against our position are public servants concerned about my family's health, and the parents of asthmatic children, for chrissake. That's a bitch. But, we can do better. I've got some ideas, and I know you and Jeff do, too. We very much need to get our heads together as soon as possible after the OMNI meeting in Portland.


The San Jose Merc's account of yesterday's hearing can be found at:

Published Wednesday, June 7, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News

San Jose to limit fireplaces

Mercury News

Jumping on board a regional effort to reduce air pollution, the San Jose City Council agreed Tuesday to ban wood-burning fireplaces in new homes.

If the council gives final approval to the ``Woodsmoke ordinance'' in two weeks, as is expected, San Jose will join four other Bay Area communities that have decided to limit fireplaces in the interest of air quality.

Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces is estimated to generate 40 percent of the small particulate matter in the Bay Area during winter months, contributing to persistent regional pollution that is particularly harmful to people with asthma.

And the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has been urging local communities like San Jose to limit wood burning by ordinance. Thus far, Petaluma, Los Gatos, Palo Alto and Dublin have imposed such limits.

They have met fierce opposition from industry groups that argue that the limits arbitrarily prohibit fireplaces while allowing some stoves that pollute more than fireplaces.

One industry group, California Hearth and Homes, is preparing legal action against Palo Alto. And spokesman Michael Gersick, who complained to the San Jose City Council on Tuesday that his group had been excluded from discussions about the ordinance, said the group would consider doing the same against San Jose.

  But council members appeared unmoved by the industry's objections, unanimously passing the ordinance on its first reading. "It's a small step," said Councilwoman Margie Matthews. "It's a good step. We probably need to do more."

The ordinance would also require property owners to replace wood-burning fireplaces if they do major remodeling around the fireplace. Historically designated buildings would be exempt from the limits.

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From: Jim Buckley
Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2000 18:54:51 -0700
To: CH&H/Literary Division
Subject: Re: Do you know there's whey in San Jose?


Your email letters are a hoot and worth the struggle by themselves.  The political analysis is right on and the language is, well, memorable. Can I share them - even put them on line? They won't be very prominently posted and I doubt that Brian (Don't nobody move.....) Doyle will ever see them.



Under the CH&H tent, my words are your words are our words.  Feel free to post away, but please attribute all of our prose to CH&H, or to "anonymous".  I have a longstanding rule against putting anything out with my name on it, that I would not like to see in the LA Times.

If Harper's calls, you may act as agent for CH&H/Literary Division, and personally retain ten percent (10%) of all rights and royalties, the remainder going to the CH&H Program Fund.  Similarly, if Brian (Who says the Irish are never witless?) Doyle calls, I'm sure you'll take at least ten percent of his action, as well.

More important than all of that is where we go from here.  Again, I am proposing a CH&H conference as soon as possible after the Portland meeting.  We've got to assess the damage, and come up with a winning response.  You and Jeff have to act like Larry Bird this week.


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