Category Archives: Politics

Newburyport Plastic Ban Bag (Sort Of)

New and old plastic bags from Market Basket.

New and old plastic bags from Market Basket.

The Newburyport “Plastic Bag Ban” goes into effect March 29, 2015. Market Basket ran out of plastic bags and is already started with the plastic bag ban.

You can bring your recyclable bags, or get paper bags, paper boxes or pay 10 cents and get a recyclable plastic bag with handles that meets the new plastic bag ban law.

New plastic bag from Market Basket

New plastic bag from Market Basket (press image to enlarge)

The new plastic bags at Market Basket are thicker, slightly larger, reusable and recyclable, they, “consists of 80% post consumer recycled material resulting in a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions. The bag “has been manufactured for multiple recuse and recyclability,” and continues to say on the bottom in LARGE letters, “After use life, please return to your local store for recycling.”

It appears that Market Basket listened to the Newburyport Commission on Disabilities who asked the folks who backed this idea to please make sure that there was a plastic bag that had handles. No one at all the meetings I went to seemed to listen or care–but Market Basket did. Good for them!!

This is what I have been asking for all along. So thank you Market Basket for being so responsive and responsible, both to your customers and to the “plastic bag ban folks” and to the environment.

Previous post on plastic bags can be read here.

Newburyport’s DPS Deserves a Better Budget and a Big “Thank You”

Nbpt-DPS-TruckI wrote this on The Newburyport Blog back in November 18, 2007:

“It must have been about 4 or 5 years ago during one of the winters from Hell that we had, I called the DPW (Department of Public Works) (the DPW is now combined into the DPS, Department of Public Services) and asked if there could be anyway that they could send a plow to re-plow our small street.

In a very short time a big plow appeared and did one heck of a spectacular job.

I wrote the DPW a thank-you note, saying how much I appreciated their extra care and consideration.

When I talked to whoever at the then DPW a little bit later, they said, I believe, that my “thank you” note was the only one that they had ever received, and that they put it up on the bulletin board as a morale booster for the folks that had been working so hard.

Wow.

Apparently, Newburyport city employees often do not get thanked for a job well done.”

They sure don’t. I wish people would thank them more, and complain less.

And it is my opinion that the DPW (DPS) is incredibly under-staffed and under-budgeted. They are so important for the safety, welfare and in this case, in the winter of 2015, after a crazy amount of snow, sanity of our city.

Yes, I understand that every department is understaffed, and that we as a city “have no money” (I often tell people we have $8,000 for 8 million dollars++ worth of stuff that needs to be done). We seem to be screaming for money for our schools, I believe we need to start demanding more money for the DPS.

And as a btw, these folks are still not treated with the respect they deserve. I still try to thank them and tell them how much I appreciate all that they do when I see them. And I’ve still been told repeatedly, that attitude is unusual, mostly they just seem to be yelled at. And yes, at the moment, after all the snow storms, the streets are really bad in places, but they’ve been literally working around the clock, and are given the equivalent of teaspoons to try and remove an unprecedented amount of snow.

Health Professionals Alarmed about Removing Fluoride from Newburyport’s Water System

Caduceus

I had someone in the medical field call me up last night and they were besides themselves about the possibility of taking fluoride out of Newburyport’s water system, because of what it would do to the health and welfare of our children and residents.

What I told them that it is really, really important for all the pediatricians, family doctors, internists, general practitioners, and yes, even all specialists in Newburyport and the surrounding areas, to speak up ASAP and contact everyone of our Newburyport city councilors. Apparently, dentists no longer count as doctors who have a valid opinion (which is that fluoride is essential to dental health) because they have been marginalized by the anti-fluoride folks for looking out for their own self interest, and being (I’m not kidding here) in the pockets of the chemical companies.

Our doctors have incredibly busy lives (and this is a vast understatement, and who knows if they can take the time to be proactive).  And this is only my opinion, but I am mystified that Daniel Enyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center has the time, not only to aid in the mobilization of anti-fluoride folks in Newburyport (see earlier post), but to give testimony at other communities as well. I know how busy my doctors are.

I have read Enyink’s testimony in the minutes of other communities, and it is very convincing, but again this is my opinion, as one local health professional said to me it is “irresponsible,” and in my opinion, just plain old crazy.

An article by Dr. John Colquhoun (now deceased), written in 1997, is one of the pieces of literature that the anti-fluoride folks point to.

There was a response written in 1999 in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, by Dr. Ernest Newbrun and Dr. Herschel Horowitz, a short excerpt is below, and the whole article can be read here.

…”Colquhoun presented no new data. His paper rehashed earlier criticisms of water fluoridation, using selective and highly biased citations of the scientific and nonscientific literature [2-10]”…

…”Opponents of fluoridation like nothing more than to have public debates on the radio, television, or in the press because it makes fluoridation seem a “controversial ” issue and gives them free publicity. In such debates with an equal number of speakers pro and contra, it appears as if the health science community is evenly divided on this issue. In fact, the overwhelming majority, probably well over 90%, of scientists, physicians, dentists, nurses, veterinarians and public health professionals fully support community water fluoridation.”

Again, the entire article which address the issue of how dangerous and crazy it would be to take fluoride out of Newburyport’s drinking water can be read here.

And as a PS, I never knew I would end up thinking about, much less researching and knowing as much as I now know about fluoride. Who knew? Who would have ever imagined?

The First Draft of the 40R District around the Train Station

I’ve seen the first draft of the new 40R Smart Growth District around the train station.

The proposed 40R District (see previous post) would allow for mixed use buildings near the train station, traffic circle, parts of Rt 1 and the area on lower State Street between Lunt and Kelly and the edge of the cemetery. There is a new updated map (see below), the larger area subdistrict B is zoned for 4 story buildings (45 ft), Subdistricts A and C is zoned for 3 story building (35 ft), and the Minco building would be zoned for 5 stories (55 ft).

Portland-Wikipedia

Four story buildings in Portland Maine, please press image to enlarge.

And I’ve gone on a hunt for some good looking 4 story buildings. I have found only one photo that is in the public domain, it is in Portland Maine.

I’m a little confused about Google’s copyright laws, and WordPress does not allow me to embed Google’s images, so what I’ve done is put links to 4 story buildings in Portland ME, Providence RI and Haverhill MA. Haverhill has, on Washington Street, what I think is a gorgeous, but rundown historic section of 4 story building. I love them.

And when you press on the links for the different cities, you can go on a “Google drive” through the areas and see what you thinks works and what does not work. Interesting stuff. Also, the buildings take a few seconds to show up after you press the links.

Portland Maine’s links can he found here, here, here, here and here.
Providence Rhode Island’s links can be found here, here and here.
Haverhill Mass links can be found here, here and here.

Newburyport-40R-Smart-Growth-Village-District-Map-1-20-2015

Updated 40R Smart Growth Village District map, please press image to enlarge.

In looking at the initial 40R draft (this is just the beginning of a large process that the city will go through) a couple of things stand out.

1) The design review is outstanding. Yah!! I hope that means that the Minco building will be forced to look awesome.

2) There is extensive input into the affordable housing aspect of the district (I’m sure the affordable housing folks with Phd’s in the subject, will have lots of input). It looked great to me.

3) Parking seems a little “skimpy” to me. A residential unit only gets one parking spot. But there is “shared parking,” with businesses and residents, which use parking at different times during the day and week, the objective being not to have lots of wasted, barren parking lots. There are so many people in this city who have Phd’s in parking, and I am not one of them. I am hoping, and pretty sure that they would figure out the “Goldilocks” version of parking, “not too much, not too little, but just right.”

4) The setbacks of the buildings are puzzling to me. There are “no requirements” on setbacks on front, side and rear yards. The way it was explained to me is that there would be no requirements for setbacks for mid-block buildings, but it might be a good idea to look at the setback requirements for intersections (and there seem to me to be a whole lot of intersections). At this point, we do not have close-up renderings of what buildings would look like in different areas of the proposed 40R District.

This is one of my main questions. I can’t imagine 4 story building around the traffic circle where Dunkin’ Donuts is and where the Bird Watcher is located. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live on that dangerous and noisy area, and being so close to a busy traffic circle. Renderings are definitely needed.

5) Not in the 1st draft, but backup information that would be arriving in the coming weeks that would include:

(1) estimated maximum dwelling units
(2) expected sewer flows (and how to pay for them)
(3) expected traffic impacts
(4) renderings/photo-simulations of new buildings
(5) expected impacts on schools
(6) expected c. 40R and c. 40S payments from the Commonwealth
(7) expected property tax revenues

Newburyport’s 40R District around the Train Station

Newburyport is beginning the process of thinking about rezoning the area around the train station, so that there can be a mix of residential units and businesses. This is called a 40R Smart Growth District. This is nothing new, the city has been talking about this since 2004.

“Chapter 40R, encourages communities to create dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts, including a high percentage of affordable housing units, to be located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.”

Here is a 2015 map of the proposed 40R District. It includes the area around Lunt and Kelly, where Dunkin’ Donuts is around the traffic circle, it goes up Rt 1 by Haley’s Ice Cream and includes the proposed building by Minco at the train station.

Newburyport-40R-Smart-Growth-Village-District-Map-12-11-2014-small

The 2015 map of the proposed 40R District (press image to enlarge)

Here are the 2 conceptual drawing that were done in 2004 by the Planning Office. The view is from Parker Street coming from Newbury. The first rendering is the way it looks now, the second rendering, done in 2004 (we don’t have an update yet) is what the proposed 40R District might look like. It’s a little confusing, but if you download the two renderings and put them side by side it becomes a little clearer.

Strategic Land Use Plan-small

The 2004 rendering of how the area looks now (press image to enlarge)

Strategic Land Use Plan2-small

The 2004 rendering of what the 40R District could look like (press image to enlarge).

At the moment there is a certain “rush” to get this 40R District going, because Minco would like to build at the train station (this is nothing new, it has been going on for a while) and has a deadline (which may or may not be flexible). And the city gets money for a 40R District (we always need money).

BUT, I think that it is very important to ask hard questions during this process, and be sure to think things through.

So here are a few of my “hard” questions and concerns and reservations.

1) The Minco design at the train station has to look great. At the moment I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks that it is in anyway acceptable.

2) There needs to be a “design review” for that area. This gateway to the city can’t look awful.

3) Traffic. The maximum buildout, when last I heard was 800 units. Folks that I’ve talked to think that it would be a lot less, more like 500 units. We don’t know the exact numbers yet, but even 400-500 units is a lot.

The 2004 rendering of what the area would look like, seems idyllic to me. There are no cars. If that area were to be built out, at rush hour it would be a complete nightmare.

4) Pedestrian traffic. Even with the rail trail, there is no way to safely and or practically cross either the traffic circle or Route 1 to get downtown, even at the crossing at Rt1 at what is called “Back Bay.” People want to get from the area on foot and they want, and do try to get to State Street, which is insanely dangerous. I think at one point there was an idea for a pedestrian bridge, but, oh my, that would cost so much money.

5) I still can’t envision anyone wanting to live up along Rt1, even with the rail trail there. The view is butt ugly, with Rt1 on onside and a view of the Industrial Park on the other.

6) I also can’t imagine anyone wanting to live around the traffic circle, especially where Dunkin’ Donuts is located. The view towards Newbury as it is now, is lovely. However, I would think living next to a dangerous traffic circle would be unappealing, and figuring out a way to walk from there, much less having a denser number of people trying to exit at that location by car, raises the question of safety to me.

7) The area on State Street.  The intersection where the Court House, Parker Street, State Street and the Traffic Circle intersect is wicked dangerous. I’ve seen really bad accidents there. If that area becomes densely populated, that intersection becomes even more dangerous. And I don’t like the prospect of getting MassDOT involved–Salisbury Square is a cautionary tale for everyone, of what never to do, and of how MassDOT can really mess up an area.

So, I totally get building at the train station if it is done well. And I have a lot of questions about building in the other proposed areas. And I hope, that through this process we don’t ram this through because of Minco’s deadline, and the fact that we would like the money from the state.

In Support of Fluoride

Some research in support of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water (see earlier post here).

National and International Organizations That Recognize the Public Health Benefits of Community Water Fluoridation for Preventing Dental Decay

Academy of Dentistry International
Academy of General Dentistry
Academy for Sports Dentistry
Alzheimer’s Association
America’s Health Insurance Plans
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
American Academy of Periodontology
American Academy of Physician Assistants
American Association for Community Dental Programs
American Association for Dental Research
American Association for Health Education
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Endodontists
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
American Association of Orthodontists
American Association of Public Health Dentistry
American Association of Women Dentists
American Cancer Society
American College of Dentists
American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine
American College of Preventive Medicine
American College of Prosthodontists
American Council on Science and Health
American Dental Assistants Association
American Dental Association
American Dental Education Association
American Dental Hygienists’ Association
American Dietetic Association
American Federation of Labor and Congress
of Industrial Organizations
American Hospital Association
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Medical Association
American Nurses Association
American Osteopathic Association
American Pharmacists Association
American Public Health Association
American School Health Association
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Nutritional Sciences
American Student Dental Association
American Water Works Association
Association for Academic Health Centers
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Association of State and Territorial Public Health
Nutrition Directors
British Fluoridation Society
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Nurses Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
Canadian Public Health Association
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Dental Health Project
Chocolate Manufacturers Association
Consumer Federation of America
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Delta Dental Plans Association
FDI World Dental Federation
Federation of American Hospitals
Hispanic Dental Association
Indian Dental Association (U.S.A.)
Institute of Medicine
International Association for Dental Research
International Association for Orthodontics
International College of Dentists
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
National Association of Community Health Centers
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Dental Assistants
National Association of Local Boards of Health
National Association of Social Workers
National Confectioners Association
National Dental Assistants Association
National Dental Association
National Dental Hygienists’ Association
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Down Syndrome Society
National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped
National Head Start Association
National Health Law Program
National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
Oral Health America
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Society for Public Health Education
Society of American Indian Dentists
Special Care Dentistry
Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities
American Association of Hospital Dentists
American Society for Geriatric Dentistry
The Children’s Health Fund
The Dental Health Foundation (of California)
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Public Health Service
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
World Federation of Orthodontists
World Health Organization

http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation/ada-fluoridation-resources/fluoridation-facts-publication/fluoridation-facts-compendium

From  the Society of Toxicology:

“The impact of fluoridated water has been so dramatic that the Centers for Disease Control lists it as one of the 10 great health achievements of the 20th century. Despite this, serious opposition exists against fluoridated water, and attacks by these groups usually ignore the concept of dose. As a result, less than 60% of the U.S. water supply is fluoridated. This discussion can be adapted for people ranging from 80 yrs old to 8 years of age, and possibly younger. Be sure to emphasize the benefits of fluoride and reemphasize this, particularly with younger students, so that they go home understanding that it is okay to use fluoridated toothpaste and drink fluoridated water.”

http://www.toxicology.org/AI/FA/Tipsheet4DemosMar1402.pdf

A link recommended by the American Academy of Diabetes:

“For starters, get rid of plaque by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste”

http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2012/nov/safeguarding-your-oral-health-with-diabetes.html

From the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology:

“I know of no scientifically validated effect of fluoride on food allergy of any sort, including peanut and tree nut allergy. Also, I could not find any reference to such in a search of the medical literature.

Thank you again for your inquiry.

Sincerely,

Phil Lieberman, M.D.”

From the American Cancer Society:

“The general consensus among the reviews done to date is that there is no strong evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer.”

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/water-fluoridation-and-cancer-risk

From the National Kidney Foundation:

“There is no evidence that consumption of optimally fluoridated drinking water increases the risk of developing CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease)”

https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/docs/khafluoridation_ckd-ndt_2007.pdf

The Fluoride Wars Come to Newburyport

waterwater1

On Monday night outside Newburyport’s City Hall, there were protesters with anti-fluoride signs and people screaming “poison.”

Inside City Hall were there were a stream of people, from all over the region (a couple who actually lived in Newburyport) speaking about the evils of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water.

Daniel Eyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center on High Street, is a leader of the anti-fluoride opponents. Dr. Dan worked as an internist and primary care doctor in Newburyport starting in 1998 and started his healing center in 2009.

Dr. Dan probably has the best bedside manner of any doctor around. If all doctors followed his example on his bedside manner, the medical profession would be a far better place. My understanding is that Dr. Dan is often the person of last resort when medical professionals cannot figure out how to help a patient. And Dr. Dan is well loved and respected by many people in the community. However, if my doctor helped lead a movement against something that every world health organization enthusiastically endorses, I wouldn’t even say a peep, I’d just find another doctor.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dental Association (ADA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Family Physicians, and  the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which named the measure one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century–all of these organizations are in agreement that fluoride in the water supply is not only safe, but also extremely effective and important in preventing tooth decay. For the anti-fluoride folks, this does not matter. Fluoride is “poison.” And for me this point of view is not unlike some people not getting vaccinated for measles, mumps and chickenpox, and thereby putting a whole new population at risk.

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put a proposal to the Newburyport City Council to put banning fluoride on this November ballot. If the Newburyport City Council decides to put this issue on the ballot, it will make the 50 year fight over Newburyport’s Waterfront, and the fight over the Local Historic District look positively civilized.

Slate documented what happened in Portland when this issue came to a vote. The anti-fluoride folks went for a black and white, no holds barred approach based on fear, hysteria and faulty science, and successfully persuaded the people of Portland to vote against having fluoride in the water system–fear and doubt, out did reason and good medical science (the article can be read here).

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put the rest of the City Council between a rock and a hard place. Does the City Council let the people of Newburyport vote, democracy and all, or do they say this is absolutely ridiculous, we are not subjecting the city of Newburyport to voting on such nonsense, and dividing the community over hysteria, fear and misguided science.

If they do decide to put it on the ballot, judging by Monday night–Wow.

Leading–the Best and the Worst of the Legislative Process, Newburyport 2014

CityOfNewburyport

This year, 2014, it is my opinion that Newburyport saw the best and the worst examples of the legislative process in the Newburyport City Council

THE BEST

The best was the attempt to preserve Newburyport’s historic assets.

The process had its origins in Newburyport’s raucous and rancorous LHD debate (see endless posts). The two sides as I now look back:

1) Preserving Newburyport’s historic assets through regulations governed by a particular commission.
2) A concern about the control of that commission, and a distrust of commissions like it in other communities.

I ended up thinking that both were valid points of view.

And then Newburyport City Councilor Katy Ives spent a good year and a half listening to all and sundry and came up with an incredible win-win solution.

1) The properties before 1930 in Newburyport’s Historic District could not be demolished.
2) Newburyport’s commercial downtown, our “brand,” needed to be preserved.

Katy Ives got elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, and the compromise by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives died. Poof.

That is until Jared Eigerman got elected as Ward 2’s City Councilor. And Councilor Eigerman met with the “Yes LHD” folks, the “No LHD” folks, hardcore preservationists, and hardcore property rights folks. It was made clear that no one was going to get everything they wanted, and that an ordinance would be presented that was possible in the existing political climate. It was basically what Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives had proposed a year and a half before.

People may have not liked all of it, but it passed unanimously with an 11-0 vote.

And people, whether they liked all of it or not, did not:

1) Feel ignored
2) Feel invisible
3) Feel as if their insights were insignificant

People felt that a decision had been made that took into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.

The result = a whiff, or slightly more than a whiff, of trust and hope.

THE WORST

The worst legislative process in 2014 by the Newburyport City Council in my opinion was the Plastic Bag Ban.

For me this was the most frustrating and appalling legislative process that I have been involved in. During that process, all kinds of very productive points of view and ideas were presented. They were swept under the rug.

As a result people:

1) Felt ignored
2) Felt invisible
3) Felt as if their insights were insignificant

People felt that a decision had been made that did not take into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.

The measure passed with a split vote of 6-5 with 2 of the City Councilors who voted for the measure, expressing doubt and reservation on the Council floor.

The result = a huge lack of trust, a festering sore and lingering resentment, and discouragement (the opposite of hope) in a process that did not reflect the larger representation of the citizens of Newburyport.

Newburyport and Massachusetts Primary Wins

VOTE

Newburyport and Massachusetts Primary Wins:

Ed Cameron wins the Democratic primary for State Rep. for 1st Essex District.

Kathleen O’Connor Ives wins the Democratic primary for State Senator for 1st Essex District.

Seth Moulton wins over John Tierney in the Democratic primary for US House, 6th District.

Maura Healey wins the Democratic primary for Massachusetts Attorney General.

Video about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal, “A Measure of Change”

Many thanks to Jerry Mullins over at Brick and Tree for putting this incredible video about what Newburyport used to look like up again, this time on YouTube.

Newburyport used to look like a slum.  Hard to believe, but the history on this video is amazing.

And there are a lot of friends on the video.  Sue Little, the owner of Jabberwocky Books, opens the video.  Tom Kolterjahn, the president of The Newburyport Preservation Trust is on there, along with Bryon Matthews, John (Hacky) Pramberg, Bill Harris, Jack Bradshaw.

Enjoy!

A Measure of Change, the video about Newburyport's Urban Renewal

A Measure of Change, the video about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal

The link to the video “A Measure of Change” can be found here.”

New Rules, Bricks on Curbs to be Replaced by Cement in Newburyport

Example of new white curb cut next to a brick sidewalk.

Example of new white curb cut next to a brick sidewalk.

This is what I now know (please see legal disclaimer–I am an amateur blogger, not a legal expert, or highway engineer, or any of the other things one might want to be, to fully comprehend this, and yes, there are still a lot more questions).

In March of 2012 MassDOT mandated the following changes for ADA curb cuts (those are the cuts on sidewalk corners):

1) To have a “Detectable or tactile warning strip, consisting of truncated domes.” (i.e. bumpy things)

2) And the change is also in material, the requirement is that it be “slip resistant” which according to the description, eliminates brick:

“7. Walk surfaces shall be designed and constructed as firm, stable and slip resistant surfaces. They shall lie generally in a continuous plane with a minimum of surface warping.”

The document can be read here:

What this means in real simple terms, is that legally cement is now in, and brick is out.

I have confirmed this with a very, very nice person at MassDOT, as well as folks who know this stuff in Newburyport City Hall.

And this applies to historic cities and towns all over Massachusetts, including Boston. And from what I can make out (every place that I have checked), with the exception of Beacon Hill, has eventually given in and gone with cement over brick (with much wailing and gnashing of teeth) (again, I am an amateur blogger, not a professional journalist–disclaimer one more time).

On Monday night, at the Newburyport City Council Meeting, the list of streets and sidewalks to be repaved is on the agenda to be Ok’d by the City Council. My hope is that at least one member of the City Council will get up and say, “Wait a minute, could we Ok all the money for roadwork and sidewalks, but could we take a little bit of time to find out some answers to the curb cut–no more brick thing, before we give the big go ahead on that one.”

My hope is that if brick is out and cement is in, that maybe we could mitigate the visual impact in some way.  And I’m just throwing ideas out there, there is such a thing as stamped cement, that looks like brick.  I have no idea if that would work, but something along those sort of lines would be better than glaring white strips of cement that would eventually replace the brick corners that now exist.

Here is a list of corners that are slated to be redone this year, where brick would be an issue:

Along High Street:
State Street
Market Street
Federal Street
Lime Street
Parsons Street
Coffins Court
Allen Street
Bromfield Street
Barton Street

And:
State Street and Garden Street (Where the Dalton Club is.)

Brick-curbing

An an example of a good looking curb cut with brick that now exists. (The arrows pointing to the good example are photoshopped by me.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: A REPRIEVE!!  Newburyport City Councilor Bob  Cronin has just gotten up at the Newburyport City Council meeting and asked that the curb cuts that had been designated to be turned from brick to cement along High Street be sent to committee for further discussion. As I understand it, the matter was sent to “Public Safety.” (P.S. I wasn’t sure whether or not the now brick curb cut by the Dalton Club, at the corner of State and Garden was also included in that list.) Thank you so much Newburyport City Council!!

Another Idea on how to have a Win-Win on Recycling Plastic Bags

An idea. I’m brainstorming here.

RecyleCleanThe plastic bag industry definitely has gotten the memo loud and clear about recycling plastic bags. However, the plastic bag recycling industry wants clean dry thin filmed plastic bags for recycling, not soiled ones. That means they want plastic bags to be returned to participating stores. Neither the plastic industry or the City of Newburyport wants them in the recycling bins (plastic bags reek havoc for our recycling machines). The thin film plastic bags and other clean, dry thin film products are then bailed and shipped to places in the United States or to Canada or China for recycling. Recycling thin clean, dry thin film plastic is a billion dollar business, for real (see earlier entry).

So this might be a way to have small stores to be able to recycle plastic bags, if that is what they would like to do. Maybe the stores downtown, on Storey Avenue and in the Tannery might be able to participate (if they wanted to, along with providing reusable bags and bags made out of paper, I’ve seen some really nice ones from stores downtown). And maybe either Market Basket or Shaw’s might be able to be the “anchor store” (see below).

If the “industry” is involved, (the “bad guys”) in helping the city with a plastic bag recycling program, then the plastic bag industry has a real incentive to not only help us start something effective, but make sure that each year it becomes more and more successful.

So this is a quote from PlasticFilmRecycling.org on a “Business-to-Business” (B2B) pilot program.  And the website may look like a non-profit, but the American Chemistry Council is behind it (see the fine print at the bottom).  So yes, I am proposing that environmentalist work with “the bad guys” to come up with a solution instead of an outright ban on plastic bags. Nelson Mandela knew about working with your enemy–he becomes your partner.

b2b

This is from “Business-to-Business” (B2B), the entire link can be read here. 

“The B2B recycling program staff facilitated partnerships with large retail “anchor” stores and their smaller neighbor merchants that are located in shopping centers and malls. The anchor stores serve as collection points for clean, used plastic bags and film from their customers and from the neighboring stores. The anchor store is then able to use its existing infrastructure to transfer or “backhaul” the plastic bags and film back centers in delivery trucks that would otherwise return empty to their distribution centers.

The smaller retailers benefit because they are able to take advantage of a recycling opportunity that in most cases would be too expensive or unavailable to them. The anchor store benefits by being able to sell more recyclable material and to promote its environmental efforts by using existing resources and committing to a relatively small increase in labor. The Orange County SWMD benefits in many ways including conservation of landfill space due avoided disposal of tons of plastic bags and film, increased recycling rates, and avoided costs for a commercial recycling program as a result of the successes of the B2B recycling program.”

NOAA_debris

And to learn about Marine Debris, visit NOAA’s (U.S Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Debris website here, including information on what is sometimes referred to the great garbage patch, or how debris accumulates in the ocean here.

From NOAA: “Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways…”  “The term “Pacific Garbage Patch” is a popular nickname for an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean, located in between Hawaii and California…” “While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris is small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye…”

And from NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog, which can be read here.

“With all of this information flying around, much of it conflicting, what is actually known about these topics? And what do we believe?

First, the name “garbage patch” is a misnomer. There is no island of trash forming in the middle of the ocean, and it cannot be seen with satellite or aerial photographs. While it’s true that these areas have a higher concentration of plastic than other parts of the ocean, much of the debris found in these areas are small bits of plastic (microplastics) that are suspended throughout the water column.  A comparison I like to use is that the debris is more like flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup, rather than a skim of fat that accumulates (or sits) on the surface…”

“The bottom line really is that all of this human-made trash simply does not belong in our oceans or waterways…”

All of this is not good.  

Why I Personally Like my Plastic Bags, and NO, I’m Not in the Pocket of the Plastic Bag Industry

Gluten Free

Gluten Free

I just vowed I wouldn’t go there, put people ask me, “Why in the world do you want to have plastic bags so much?” And for anyone thinking or saying that I must be in the pocket of the plastic bag industry (because that seems to be the immediate reaction if you happen to like plastic bags), the answer is “No,” and believe me, I have opinions on stuff, people have accused me of a lot worse (see 7+ years of earlier posts).

I have something called celiac disease.  It has been ruled as a disability under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA).  Who knew? not me that it was ruled a disability, until all this research on plastic bags last week. See the link on ADA and celiac here.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come out with a ruling saying something cannot be labeled gluten free, unless it is really and truly is gluten free, which they have said is 20 parts per million (20 ppm), in other words–a microscopic amount. You can read all about it here, if you feel like it. (That one I knew about, the FDA ruling thing. The White House actually sent me an email telling me about the new gluten food labeling by the FDA, it made my day, week, month, year.)

When I was diagnosed (and all of that info is on the blog if you want to go look for it) back in 2009, no one knew hardly nada about what celiac was. Now, gluten free, here we come, which as it plays out, is fantastic for people with celiac. I was told is that microscopic amounts would make me sick (as in eventually kills you), so scrub out your kitchen, throw out and replace all sorts of stuff.  I thought they were being hysterical nut cases. It turns out “they” were right. When I got rid of anything that might have microscopic amounts of gluten, I started to get better.

The weird thing about celiac is that if effects everyone differently, it has all kinds of different symptoms, and basically they still know mostly nada.  But I am one of those pesky folks where only digesting microscopic amounts takes me 6 weeks to recover. And am I paranoid about getting “glutened?” you bet I am.

Which brings me to plastic bags at the grocery store. When they open one of those plastic bags, I know that no gluten has ever, never ever, been in there.  I am safe, safe, safe. No need to wonder, did I bring home gluten stuff in this bag?  Do I throw this bag away? Do I throw them all away to be safe?  No, every plastic bag is a safe bag for moi.  And it brings peace of mind and serenity to the ever not wonderful challenge of going to the grocery store as a celiac (where gluten is everywhere and not in everything anymore, but still in tons of stuff). And I take those plastic bags that make me feel safe and never glutened, and recycle them back at the grocery store.

Whether people understand my fondness for plastic bags having celiac disease, is up to them. But for me, it is huge.

Trying for a Win-Win Solution instead of an Outright Ban on Plastic Bags, and the Plastic Bag Industry has Gotten the Message

RecyleCleanI went to Tuesday night’s meeting held by the Newburyport City Council on the Plastic Bag ban, and it was without doubt the most frustrating and depressing meeting that I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot of meetings), and my read was that I wasn’t exactly alone in feeling that way.

The meeting seemed to me to be more about a homily to a plastic bag ban, than a how can we problem solve this together as a community.  When I raised my hand, I said it felt a lot like being at a Waterfront meeting and being for some sort of buildings down there (you gotta live in Newburyport, to understand that one). (And this proposed ban is in 2 City Council committees, there will never be public hearings.)

There was a young lady at that meeting, and from what I could make out, she was not from Newburyport, who said that plastic bag lobbyists lived among our wards and were giving bribes to city councilors (city councilors, who were there, I may not have gotten that completely right, but that is basically what she said). I resent someone calling our local city government corrupt.

I chased down the plastic bag people who appear to recycle our plastic bags at Market Basket, Hilex Poly, to ask them to help us with a recycling program, I asked if it would be possible to have receptacles at the grocery stores that are fun and easy to notice.  I ended up talking to the lobbyist, who does live in Newburyport, many people know him, he was the campaign manager to John Kerry in the senate race against Governor Weld in the 1996 senate race and was then Senator Kerry’s chief of staff (John Kerry is now the Untied States Secretary of State). One of the city councilors at the meeting remarked that he was in fact helpful (I don’t remember the exact words).  Mr. Greenly agreed, and said he would get back to me this week.  We’ll see.

canada-map

Canada

The plastic bag industry has definitely got the memo that they better get going into putting a lot of effort into recycling plastic thin film bags.  And I now know more than I ever imagined about recycling plastic bags.

This is appears to be the bottom line. There is a billion dollar recycling plastic thin filmed industry.  There is a huge market for clean, dry thin filmed plastic, including clean, dry plastic bags. There isn’t a strong market for soiled plastic, but clean, dry plastic–it’s unbelievable the market for this stuff.  If you go to the back of our grocery stores, there will be bails of clean thin filmed plastic (including the recycled plastic bags) along with bails of clean cardboard.  Some of it is used here in the US (Hilex Poly has just built a $25 million dollar plastic bag recycling plant in Indiana). But the big bulk of it appears to be exported to China and Canada for big bucks, to be reused for all sorts of things, including decking by Trex.

Wegmans

Wegmans recycling program

And what I said at the meeting, is that every time I bring up the subject of recycling plastic bags as part of a 2 pronged strategy (used at a Mid-Atlantic grocery store called Wegmans, with the help of the plastic bag industry) of both recycling and using reusable bags, I get shouted down by environmentalists that recycling plastic bags is out of the question.

The plastic bags create absolute havoc with the machinery when they are put in the recycling bins here in Newburyport.  They gotta go back to the grocery stores, Market Basket and Shaw’s (or places like Lowe’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club up in Seabrook). People don’t know to bring them back. The plastic bag industry was more than willing to work with Mid-Atlantic grocery store Wegmans.  I feel as if I am shouting against the wind to try and get Newburyport to work with the “bad guys,” the plastic industry, to help us come up with a win-win solution here in Newburyport, because people for all sorts of reasons like their plastic bags, they just haven’t gotten the memo, (well, some have), what to do with them–i.e. return to sender, bring them back.

The article about Wegmans effort concerning plastic bags can be read here, including the video which can also be seen here.

Editor’s Note: From Wegmans Food Market

ROCHESTER, NY – It’s not every day that one good turn earns double credit! But during April, customers who bring their clean, dry plastic bags to a Wegmans Food Market for recycling can feel good twice over: First, for recycling their bags, and second, for helping to increase the contribution Wegmans is making to an organization that’s a friend of the earth, The Nature Conservancy.

Last year in April, Wegmans customers recycled 177,000 pounds of plastic bags – the equivalent of about 11 million new bags. The company wanted to improve on last year’s record and came up with a plan to contribute at least $10,000 to The Nature Conservancy, the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect lands and water for nature and people. To inspire customers to scour closets, pantries and other storage areas for plastic bags to recycle, Wegmans pledged to contribute 50 cents to the Conservancy for every additional pound above last year’s total of 177,000 (with a minimum contribution of $10,000).

“Sustainability is a company-wide priority at Wegmans,” says Sustainability Coordinator Jason Wadsworth, “and the duty to protect air, land and water for people today and tomorrow belongs to all of us. We’re very proud of the steps we and our customers have already taken to reduce, reuse and recycle, but to keep moving in the right direction, we need to keep coming up with more and better ways to conserve these precious resources. It made sense to us to inspire customers to do their best too by working together on this recycling initiative.”

During April, signs near the recycling bins in the stores’ vestibules will remind customers to bring in their plastic bags for recycling, and Wegmans will track the total weight as the month goes by. In addition, on Saturday April 26 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the first 300 customers at every store who bring in a bunch of clean dry plastic bags will receive a coupon for a Wegmans reusable bag.

“The reusable bags come in lots of designs and colors, and they’re actually the best option from an environmental standpoint,” Wadsworth says.

Since some customers prefer plastic bags, however, Wegmans has also looked for ways to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled. In January, Wegmans introduced new plastic bags with the slogan “Return to Sender.” The bags are made with 40% recycled plastic. “It helps people to know we put their plastic shopping bags to good use after they bring them back to the store. Our supplier uses those recycled bags as raw material for brand new bags. Last year, together with our customers, Wegmans recycled a total of 3.6 million pounds of plastic bags and wrapping.”

Today, every Wegmans store now uses on average 4,000 fewer plastic carry-out bags per day compared with 2007, the year Wegmans introduced reusable bags and began reformulating its carry-out plastic bags. That’s 120 million fewer bags each year.

To read please see link here.

The Recycling Plastic Bag Slurping Machine

recycle-machine-happyChild

Fun recycling slurping plastic bag machine

I really like the idea of a single use plastic bag recycling slurping machine. (Please see earlier entry here.)

First of all, the plastic bag industry has a huge PR problem on their hands. The sustainable bag folks are right, plastic bags are wandering around not only our local environment, but all over the place.  And the approach at the moment is to ban them outright, which causes all kinds of friction in communities, all over North America.

And it’s time that the plastic bag folks worked with environmentalists instead of against them, because for the plastic bag industry it comes down to keeping your product which equals = $$ money.

For example, If you had a recycling machine that slurped plastic bags (without slurping in little hands that might feed them) for either a small amount of money, or maybe something like points that could be redeemed for money, you could be a hero to young mothers and fathers everywhere. What little child wouldn’t be mesmerized by machine that slurps plastic bags.

If a young mother or father who needs to go to the grocery store, and young Emma or Aiden is tired and cranky and doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, the young parent can say, “Honey, if we go to the slurping plastic bag machine first, will you help mommy or daddy go grocery shopping, and then we can use the rest of the plastic bags at the slurping machine when we’re done.” It might be a real incentive to a) recycle plastic bags and b) go cooperate with their parents at the grocery store. You, plastic bag company,  become a hero.

On one of those horrible rainy days when kids are stuck inside, a trip to your local supermarket or wherever, where young kids can feed in plastic bags to the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, could be a real godsend for something fun + practical to do.  Been in those parents shoes, know what it’s like.

And if little Emma or Aiden can make some money to boot, they are going to be begging their neighbors, their Nana for their plastic bags to take to this fun plastic bag slurping recycling machine.  Pretty soon, Emma and Aiden, whether they are environmentalists or not, learn about recycling because it’s fun, and they get lots of positive feedback from helping people as well.

Schools could have fundraisers using the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, make a little money, and learn how to help the environment while they are doing it. And you plastic bag industry look great.

The plastic bag recycling slurping machine wouldn’t be good just for Newburyport, it would be good for everyone all over the world.  The plastic bag folks could then help solve a world wide problem, and be heroes instead of the goat.

Recycle_BagThe other thing, is that the production of the plastic bag recycling slurping machine would help create a whole new industry and lots of new jobs (preferably here in Massachusetts).

This also assumes that people know loud and clear where to take those single use plastic bags.  Having great big huge “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” logos on plastic bags, and exactly where to return them, would be real easy to legislate (much easier than an outright ban). And plastic bag industry, why not beat the government to the punch, and do that yourselves. Again, you would be heroes, instead of the people known for causing a major environmental problem.

A Fun Way to Recycle Plastic Bags

Recycle_BagRecycle_BagLook, not only do I get that plastic bags are detrimental to our wetland and coastal areas, I agree with it.  However, instead of an outright ban, I’d like a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of single use plastic bags.  And I understand that Market Basket has been unresponsive to this issue (and the single use plastic bag industry must be as well, since their “recycle and reuse” logo is so tiny, you can hardly see it), and I hope that the proposed ban forces Market Basket to have a meaningful dialogue with the city council and residents about how to solve this issue.

And this is what I don’t understand.  First of all, it would be a giant PR move for both the single use plastic bag industry and the supermarket industry if they put big, huge colorful “reduce, recycle, reuse” logos on their plastic bags, with where to recycle them (i.e. at Market Basket or Shaws) in big bold letters, instead of in fine print at the bottom.  Both industries would be heroes instead of goats. Seems like a pretty good idea to me. If both those businesses/industries did that, we might not be having this local fight over plastic bags, that we are having now, and they would help the environment all over the place. This would be a good thing.

recycle-machine copy

Fun slurping recycling machine

The other thing is, that if I was an inventor, or if I was the plastic bag industry, I’d find me an inventor, to have a fun way to recycle the plastic bags once they got to the supermarket.  If I was an inventor, I’d invent a machine that slurped the plastic bags in one at a time and gave a penny for each plastic bag, or a penny for 5 plastic bags (whatever is economical and fair).  First of all, little kids (or even grown-ups) would be mesmerized by a machine that slurped plastic bags.

And when you could first get money for returning cans, people were scouring all over the place, cities, suburbs, to find cans to make some extra money.  If you had a fun machine that slurped plastic bags AND got a little dough in the process, I bet the same thing would happen, and I bet you would have a whole lot less single use plastic bags wandering around our environment, and I bet they’d be reduced in a major, major way, pretty quick.  It would be a huge PR win for the plastic bag industry, and they wouldn’t be so vilified and it would be fun to boot. And it would be a good thing for the plastic bag industry to work with environmentalists  to help solve problems for a win-win solution.

Ed Cameron is Running for State Rep

Our Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron has announced that he will be running for State Rep to fill Michael Costello’s seat (Mike Costello will not be running for reelection in November).

This email arrived this morning:

Dear Friend,

As you probably know, State Representative Mike Costello announced this past Wednesday that he will not be running for reelection to the First Essex District this November.

I am announcing that I will be a candidate for this House seat.

Thursday’s article in the Daily News linked here provide a great summary of what Mike has meant to the district. The article can be read here.

Mike has been a true champion on issues for Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury.

He has been instrumental in providing State support for bridges, roundabouts, beaches, boardwalks, rail trails, and other important elements that make our communities strong.

I can do a good job representing the citizens of these three communities.

My experience as a Newburyport City Councillor has given me an understanding of where State government needs to do better to sustain local communities, particularly with general local aid, Chapter 70 educational aid, and Chapter 90 transportation funds for local street and sidewalk improvements.

My experience in the nonprofit sector has given me an understanding of how challenging it can be for families to raise and educate their children, find housing they can afford, and get to work on inadequate highways, trains and buses.

Mike has been a strong advocate for us and we’re very fortunate to have Senator Katy O’Connor-Ives represent us in the State Senate.

I want to earn your vote over the next several months. And I do ask for your support. More importantly I respectfully ask for your input on what issues are important to you.

You can click on this link to give me your ideas. The link is here.

I will make a formal announcement in the next few days and begin to collect signatures over the next few weeks. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions or want to help.

Thank you,

Ed Cameron
978-518-0786
edcameronNBPT@gmail.com

Meeting to Discuss the Proposed Ban Plastic Bags Ordinance and Contact Information

The Newburyport City Council meeting, the Council of a Whole, to discuss the proposed Ban the Plastic Bag Ordinance, is taking place Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 7PM at City Hall. This is where the public can express their opinions, and legally the members of the City Council can talk about the proposed ordinance together.

The Neighborhood & City Services/License & Permits Committee of Whole
April 1, 2014 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Agenda: Thin film plastic bag ordinance

Newburyport City Hall
60 Pleasant St
Newburyport, MA 01950

If you would like to contact the City Councilors and Cc Mayor Donna Holaday, the contact information is below.

Thomas O’Brien – President and Ward 6
thomasobrien11@aol.com

Allison Heartquist – Ward 1
heartquist@gmail.com

Jared Eigerman  – Ward 2
jaredeigerman@yahoo.com

Robert Cronin – Ward 3
croninward3@gmail.com

Charles Tontar – Ward 4
ctontar@comcast.net

Larry Giunta – Ward 5
larrygiunta12@gmail.com

Ed Cameron – Councilor At-Large
edcameronnbpt@gmail.com

Barry Connell – Councilor At-Large
envirocom@comcast.net

Ari Herzog – Councilor At-Large
ariherzog@gmail.com

Meghan Kinsey – Councilor At-Large
meghankinsey@gmail.com

Bruce Vogel – Councilor At-Large
bruce@vogelatlarge.com

Cc Mayor Donna Holaday
mayor@cityofnewburyport.com

Detailed contact information with addresses and phone numbers for the 11 city councilors can be found here.

The Ban Plastic Bags Ordinance – A Newburyport Progressive Political Overreach

OverReachForgive me, but here I go again.

What I see in the Ban Plastic Bags Ordinance, as it is now written and as it has been presented (see 2 earlier posts here and here), is “progressives” overreaching and making the same mistake they made in the 2008-2009 council.

People may not remember that the City Council passed the Wind Turbine through fast, very fast, and it passed with an 11-0 vote.  After the Wind Turbine went up, and there was such an incredible backlash, and people saw the effects that it had on real peoples’ lives, I can’t tell you how many councilors said to me, “What did we do?” and wished there hadn’t been such a rush to judgement. And I’m pretty sure, at that point, the vote would have been pretty close to 11-0 against.

I had hoped that this was one of the most level headed city councils ever. It got off to a good start by being careful, thoughtful and inclusive in its approach to protecting downtown (our brand), and our historic buildings (a whole other post).  (The Planning Board has not made its final recommendation yet, and the City Council has not yet voted–the process is still ongoing.) That governing template and process resulted in a bucketload of good will and trust in our city council.

This overreach, in my mind, is a legislative setback and now an “old school” approach.  And I could imagine exactly how it happened. The Citizens for Sustainable Bagging have been working towards the goal of banning “single use, thin filmed” plastic bags (the ones at Shaws and Market Basket) for 2 years, and they have supporters on the council, which is perfectly natural.  And what most probably happened, was the thought, “We have a progressive city council, finally, and we can now get our agenda (in this case it happens to be an ultra-progressive one) passed.”

Please don’t go there, don’t go that route.  If this passes, as is, without a more moderate approach, what will happen is “conservative” candidates will run in the next City Council election, on a moderate restoration of plastic bags, and you have no idea–they will get so many votes. And if the ordinance, as written, is not made more moderate, that bucketload of trust that this Newburyport City Council has right at the get-go, will be eroded so, so, so very quickly.

ConCom-PBags

Letter from ConCom, press image to enlarge.

Editor’s Note:  I have in front of me a letter to the City Council, on city stationary, from the Conservation Commission, that “does not endorse the complete ban on plastic bags at this time,” but supports “a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of plastic bags, as a reduction in their use would have a positive impact on the environment.”  (To read the entire letter, please press the image to the left to enlarge.) Seems fair to me.

Second Editor’s Note: The ConCom minutes of August 6, 2013 which are referenced in the letter above can be read here.

“Discussion of Proposed Plastic Bag Ordinance

Sheila Taintor of the Citizens for Sustainable Bagging discussed the ordinance to ban plastic bags that the group intends to put before the City Council. She asked the Commission members to support the draft ordinance. Members commented that they wish to have more details about the way in which the ban would work and how the ban has been implemented in other communities.

They said that while the plastic bags greatly impact the environment they might favor voluntary compliance or an incentive program over a ban. Paul Healy moved that a letter be sent to the City Council stating that while the Commission does not endorse the ban, it would support a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of plastic bags, as a reduction in their use would have a positive impact on the environment. Steve Moore seconded the motion. The motion was approved with Dan Warchol voted in opposition. Julia Godtfredsen will draft a letter for approval at the next meeting.” From ConCom minutes August 6, 2013 which can be read here.

Third Editor’s Note:  This is the complete last paragraph in the letter above to the Newburyport City Council from the Conservation Commission:

“While the Conservation Commission does not endorse the complete ban on plastic bags at this time (due to lack of information on how it has been successfully conducted in other similar municipalities), we would support a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of plastic bags, as a reduction in their use would have a positive impact on the environment.”

The Ban the Plastic Bag Ordinance – An Unfortunate Guide for Governing

plasticBag-2

I had two emotions watching last night Newburyport City Council during the public comment period (this is where the public can express their opinion to the City Council before the Council gets down to business).

On the one hand, I was enormously impressed that the young people in our community want to and are learning how, at an early age, to become involved in the “civic” process, and speak so eloquently, and at times passionately about an issue that they believe in. Would that so many other residence in Newburyport become involved in our the process of our city government in the same way.

On the other hand, it makes it very difficult for someone like me, who would like a more measured approach to this particular subject, the issue of banning plastic bags, to speak up and ask for a more moderate approach, without sounding like a complete douche bag (a contemptible and despicable person).

And the other thing, not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, is that the proposed ordinance to ban plastic bags had seven sponsors.  It is my understanding that when asked to sponsor the ordinance, at least some sponsors were under the impression that they were the second sponsor (which would be the norm), and that it wasn’t until they saw the actually ordinance, as it was presented, that they understood that they were, unwittingly, part of the “gang of seven.”

I think that this is an unwise template for the democratic process on any level, and in this particular case the municipal level. I am glad that eventually a city councilor asked for the Ban the Plastic Bag Ordinance to go to a “Committee as a Whole” (which means that legally all the councilors can discuss the issue together).  And I hope that folks like me, who have a lighter green approach to life, have an opportunity to be “heard” and taken seriously, and not shunned, because on this matter, we have a different point of view on how to address this particular issue.