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No Spray Coalition: Mtg with Christine Ingrassia

on Mon, 03/25/2024 - 5:34pm

March 25, 2024

Christine Ingrassia, the Director of Operations for the City of St. Louis, Met with 3 members of the St. Louis No Spray Coalition to discuss the bill to mandate organic landscaping on city owned land and ban the use of pesticides.

Coalition members have previously talked to several Alderman and St. Louis Parks officials about the Healthy Outdoor Parks and Public Spaces (HOPPS) bill. After noting that when laws are passed, “There can be a problem with implementation,” Ingrassia asked what the pushback has been from Parks Department officials. (She anticipated that the Parks Dept. would have objections to HOPPS). Barbara Chicherio of the Coalition recounted meeting with parks officials and Alders on January 17th. At that meeting, Greg Hayes, Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry raised three concerns with the HOPPS: 1) cost of implementation; 2) A shortage of city workers might make getting the labor needed for the requirements of the bill hard to implement; 3) Paperwork required on pesticide usage and getting special exemptions to deal with invasive species and to treat certain tree diseases would be “cumbersome.”

“We know from the experience of 140+ other cities that have implemented ordinances similar to HOPPS that although there is some cost increase initially to convert to organic landscaping, the cost of landscaping in the parks goes down after only a few years after converting,” responded Coalition member Daniel “digger” Romano (myself). I also noted that the bill had been modified to lessen the need for paperwork and that the language for the process of applying for special exemptions had been simplified, in response to Hayes's comments at the January meeting.

Coalition member Erin O'Reilly noted that in response to other concerns voiced by City officials, HOPPS has also been modified to exempt the municipal golf courses and the airport's runways.

O'Reilly raised concerns about exposure of children to pesticides used in the parks (they are particularly vulnerable to toxic pesticides) and spoke in favor of posting warning signs in public spaces when toxic pesticides are used (which would be required in the HOPPS bill) to warn the public.

Romano asked for help from Ingrassia in getting information on exactly how much the City spends on pesticide use, as any bills introduced in the Board of Alderman (BOA) need to be accompanied by a financial statement.

Ingrassia expressed support for the HOPPS bill: “You don't have to convince me,” she added. She said she would bring up the bill at the meeting tomorrow of the City's leadership team, which includes Megan Green, President of the BOA, and other City officials