Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2009 - page 3

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Please Pipedown USA newsletter is on-line at the Noise Off web site,

Creative idea to combat noise

We're all aware that many cities have good anti‑noise provisions in their ordinances or by‑laws, but devote little or no effort toward prioritising enforcement. My City of Coos Bay, Oregon, has a nuisance ordinance which goes so far as to outlaw bells worn around an animal's neck (Ordinance #100, or item 9.20.010‑11, available on‑line through http://www.amlegal.com/library).

One day, after enduring several passing "boom cars", I inquired at City Hall whether a person needs a permit to drive around neighbourhoods with loudspeakers blaring "Vote Ron Johnson for Mayor!"—or some such. After checking the archives and calling me back, the answer was "yes, per ordinance 100," but the woman I spoke to couldn't recall ever being asked to issue such a permit. That ordinance requires a time-limited permit for anything that meets a very broad definition of a "sound truck," which clearly includes "boom cars," and you have to have a good reason to apply.

A search of American Legal Publishing's Code Library brought up 245 hits for similar language in the communities it catalogues throughout 32 states.


However, instead of me vainly calling out, "Officer, do your duty!" here in Coos Bay, and then coming out on the losing end of a protracted battle, I am proposing a much broader approach—to noise awareness groups like "Right to Quiet." 

Create a forum, newsworthy enough to have a  noticeable "presence" both on the Internet and as an entity referenced by reporters and columnists (who are always hungry for easy sources of politically safe controversy and "issues"). The forum lists and ceremonially awards communities that are effective at maintaining quiet in their residential and retail business areas. Ideally, we would want to only give awards, and completely avoid giving other communities "black marks".

This would require "feeding" news of editorial and talk-show types to media outlets, with our statistics and our issues—being ever so scrupulous that what's supplied will stand up to scrutiny and criticism. A thoughtfully organised effort would be based on simple, easily and uniformly observed criteria of zoning, practical ordinances, objective results, and pro‑active enforcement (i.e. on police inititaive, not on a "your-neighbour-complained-again" basis).

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While a commonly available sound level meter (Radio Shack #33‑4050) could be used "to minimise the human factor," it's very hard to get and consistently record meaningful readings without a professional doing the survey work. Moreover, even with good results, the average person looking at the basis of our awards won't understand what all the "decibel" numbers and talk are about. Instead, a standard list of "witness"-type remarks might be better, using phrases such as "clearly heard," "could feel vibrations," "normal conversation impossible".

There's a vast cohort of retiring "baby boomers" just around the corner. Possibly, this will be the last generation who can afford to "retire," and the last major home-building development opportunity we're going to see. Following generations won't have the numbers or the money, especially since we're lowering taxes in the United States and passing on the cost of today's economic recovery to future generations (along with the costs of our sordid oil wars).

Unless we can return to the civic spirit in which Ordinance #100 was written, this might also be the last generation with the personal resources to be discerning about "quality-of-life" issues. I anticipate that builders and


real estate interests would soon be hammering on their city councils to join in and gain a share of that retirement prosperity.
Several organisations rate communities for quality of life. For examples: the authors of Places Rated; Century 21, who do community and neighbourhood ratings through their national website; most recently the AARP, which published a guide to healthy places for retirement.

I've tried several times over the years to interest various such organisations in rating communities on the basis of noise, among other issues. The result of my suggestions was a single "that's interesting" response. Unless the noise awareness groups do such a project, I don't see it happening. Later, of course, a successful effort will probably result in everyone getting on the band wagon.

With enough publicity and a growing popular sense that it's "okay" to complain about noise, there would ensue real estate booms ("peace and quiet booms") in the winning communities which, against the background of our housing recession, would become a news sensation in itself.

—By Craig Daniels, RtoQ-Member in Oregon

The 9th International Congress on Noise as a Public Health Problem was held from July 21 to 25, 2008, in Foxwoods, Connecticut, USA. The abstracts for the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise (ICBEN) conference has the entire proceedings currently available.

All of the presentations are at:
http://www.icben.org/. The link for the "ICBEN2008 Abstracts" downloads a VERY LARGE PDF file, which contains the full text (without the slide show). It may take about 10 minutes to be able to see the entire file. If you have the PC horsepower, you may want to take a look at all the research that was presented at this conference.

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Entire contents © 2006 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society

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