Part 6 Candidate Responses to the Sierra Club Yolano Group Questionnaire for the 2022 Davis City Council Election
Yolo SPCA’s “Black Cat Adopt-A-Rama” event this Saturday’s Sept. 10th at Petco

Vaitla Suggests Return to RoundUp Use in Davis Parks.

Spray picBy Nancy Price

I was stunned to read that Bapu Vaitla, who is a candidate for Davis City Council in District 1, is considering overturning the City's phase out of glyphosate (manufactured and commonly sold as RoundUp by Monsanto) instead of improving and strengthening the City's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. (see Question #2 at None of the other candidates made this audacious proposal.

Here is some background. The City decided to phase out glyphosate in 2017; finally discontinuing its use in 2020.  The process involved three City citizen-advisory commissions: Natural Resources, Recreation and Parks, and Open Space & Habitat. It took over a year and a half and involved a widely attended public citizens forum, a city-wide citizen survey, many individual Commission meetings, and a 3-way joint Commission meeting. Despite considerable stonewalling from staff, who attempted to derail and water down THIS [the] citizen-based effort, the measure was finally unanimously approved by the City Council. What passed in 2017 wasn’t perfect, but it was well-received by citizens. (For more details, see 

Around the same time, the city forced out its popular and highly respected IPM specialist (see Regrettably, that position still hasn’t been filled. But given the clear desire expressed by many staff to continue using non-organic pesticides over other less toxic weed management strategies, it is hard to see the ongoing long-term failure to fill the position as an unintended accident. 

Instead of advocating for hiring an IPM Specialist, Vaitla thinks we should go back to glyphosate because, he says, — “we cannot reasonably resort to mechanical weed management.

There are several problems here. One is Vaitla offering an opinion that either ignores or is ignorant of this recent controversial history of pesticide use by the City. A second problem is his complete dismissal and disregard of the work of the public and three citizen-advisory commissions which collectively devoted many hundreds of hours of work to this effort, most of which occurred prior to Mr. Vaitla's most recent move to Davis. 

A third problem is that, although Mr. Vaitla gives lip service to the Precautionary Principle, he doesn’t follow it. Notably, just this past June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected EPA's analysis for determining that glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic to people and ordered EPA to conduct "further analysis and explanation." The science is far from settled, and since there are valid reasons to think that glyphosate is a human carcinogen supported by respected international authorities and agencies, we should avoid using it especially since we have other methods at our disposal. 

Vaitla's position is hasty, overlooks a long City history and the latest Court rulings, and lacks respect for the citizen and commissions-led process in Davis. And, most importantly, it fails to protect our health. This attitude generally does not bode well for the sort of Councilmember he would make. 


Roberta L. Millstein

I was really disturbed to learn of this. I was part of the group that worked hard to get glyphosate banned in Davis. To have that commission-led effort overturned would be extremely disappointing given that the science is still unsettled and the very real possibility that glyphosate is a cancer risk. I am particularly concerned about its effects on the staff who would have to apply the herbicide. 

Janet Krovoza

This is actually something I could support. Rich Rifkin wrote a convincing article in the Enterprise a few months ago that turned my thinking around. If applied strategically and sparingly, I think it should be considered. The park borders and street medians are a mess despite the armies of weed whackers. Unless the city is able to hire WAY more personnel to pull weeds and spread mulch, which it is not, I think a solution to this challenge will include glyphosate.

Les Portello

There are organic alternatives to use instead of Roundup. Some developed by a Davis company?

Roberta L. Millstein

Janet, I think everybody agrees that the situation is bad. The question is, why is it bad? As Nancy‘s article documents (including the links about what happened with the IPM policy) we have been without an IPM specialist for a number of years. Our previous IPM specialist was very much in favor of multiple techniques for dealing with weeds, but most importantly, one had to be on top of them before they got bad and deal with them strategically and scientifically. That has not happened. And I believe, like Nancy believes, that this is likely to be by intent. Again, as the article documents, staff never wanted to phase out glyphosate in the first place. If they had gotten an IPM specialist when Martin was forced out, we could’ve been on top of these things. So the question is, what do we do now? I think it is reactionary to bring glyphosate back. I think we should be proactive. I think we need to hire an IPM specialist who will get control of the situation. That may be difficult at first, but once that happens, going forward we could do this better. And I would like to see a city council candidate who advocated for that. (Actually, Adam Morrill does in his remarks.)

Gilbert Coville

It’s one thing to read an article and have an opinion about the use of glyphosate, but how would you respond to the fact that there was a 2 x 2 x 2 subcommittee that worked very hard to come up with this policy? There were surveys and citizen input, then three citizen commissions voted on this policy and then the city Council unanimously approved the policy. How do you respond to overturning that result simply by reading one article?

This is one example where the citizen commission process has worked spectacularly. I think it’s very important that we have a city council that respects the citizen commissions and their work. This is far bigger than just an issue of weed management in Davis.

George Galamba

If we just leave the weeds alone, Davis will eventually become a haven for native flora. As Nature (God) intended it. Who could object?

Ron O

I pretty much agree with George's thoughts, here.

I support "plant diversity", rather than "plant discrimination". Nor do I support particular "plant privilege" - regardless of how "fragile" they might be.

You can always mow weeds, regardless.

Use of glyphosate is sort of a "scorched earth" policy. I wouldn't recommend that a council candidate support it in a place like Davis.

Scott Steward

I see two topics in this thread.

The first being the controversy Bapu Vaitlas has brought upon the queston of how to address "weeds" without killing everything else that would be of help to the environment (fire hazard aside.) I don't think the Davis City Council should be re-visiting this well considered conclusion to stop using glyphosates. I would hope that any candidate expecting to care for Davis would agree with the precident and not try jumping the tracks of process. Previous Council members agreed to recieve direction from a commision and volunteers have devoted their time to help Davis reach the conclusion to stop using glyphosate.

The second question is the need for safe consistent weed abaitment. Weeds can be addressed with means mentioned above without using a chemical of well earned dubious reputation as being an agent of negative health impacts on insects, plants and humans. The invention of glysophate and it's applicatoin is heavily influenced by profit motives of companies that are happy to pay a lot of money to settle numerous injury settlements
It is my opinion that history will show that the use of glyphosate was highly under regulated and use (if any) would require a much higher degree of protection than required now if not a license. The City would do well to stay well away fromt the herbacyde.

George Galamba

Re. Scott Steward: I agree that, unlike the Bright Night fiasco, the city did follow proper procedures in adopting the no-Roundup policy. This is commendable. But political bodies regularly revise or even reverse actions that were properly enacted. And again, if proper procedures are followed, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. Personally, I don't care if Roundup is used or not, but organic landscaping requires a LOT of mowing and weeding, and given the city's financial state, I suspect that something will have to be cut to put more staff on these tasks. Again, that's fine as long as we accept whatever staffing changes (or tax increases) will be needed.

Roberta L. Millstein

George, the point is that the actions were not properly enacted. The entire IPM policy was revised. The IPM specialist was to place a central role in that new policy and to implement the latest in IPM practices (it's not just "mowing and weeding"). But the IPM specialist was forced out and never replaced and those practices were never implemented or were discontinued.

So it would be extremely hasty to overturn the glyphosate ban. Just as Nancy Price said, if someone is going to offer an opinion that overturns the work and input of citizens, they ought to be familiar with how the decision was made and then the follow-through -- or in this case, lack of follow-through.

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