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Let’s work together on plastic bottles

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By Friday, Aug 3, 2018 Letters 9

To the Editor:

Can Great Barrington reduce plastic use without dividing our community into “us and them?”  Maybe.

I’m thrilled that we are trying to lead by example to reduce plastic waste. I would love to be thrilled that we are leading by example to unite rather than divide. We can do that if we listen to each other and address, rather than dismiss, the very real concerns brought up on both sides of the water bottle debate.

Rather than vote yes or no on Monday night, let’s extend the deadline of the ban far enough out to solve some of the problems it will create. We have nothing to lose.

We all want to reduce plastic waste. Can we do it without hurting the small businesses and the sports booster clubs that WILL be hurt by the ban?

Can we address the real inconvenience or cost we will be putting on people who will occasionally forget their reusable bottles?

Can we do this and still address the very real environmental catastrophe we are all helping to create?

Yes. Our town can drastically reduce plastic waste (of all kinds, not just water bottles) in a way that is supported by the whole community. There are options; I’ve heard several suggestions already.

If we vote on Monday to delay the implementation of the ban to some time after the May town meeting, and if we agree to really address the concerns on both sides rather than telling each other “your concerns are petty,” we can come back to town meeting with a plan that will have broad support.

If we vote yes or no on Monday, whatever the outcome, it will be close and our community will be divided. That’s what happened in Concord, the town that wrote this bylaw. We can do better.

If I’m wrong, the ban is still in effect and we can argue with each other at the next town meeting about ban or repeal. If I’m right, we’ve done something incredible

Ed Abrahams
Great Barrington

The writer is a member of the Great Barrington Selectboard.

9 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Steven Farina says:

    This sounds reasonable, Ed. The question it brings to mind is, “Can we actually do it? ” I mean, I hope we can actually find a way to unify around an issue we all recognize as existing. The question is, assuming a proper motion is made to this effect, can we legally alter the Warrant item that substantially?
    And, can we get enough and proper representation from people with views on both sides of the water bottle ban issue into the same room to talk WITH each other, not AT each other? We could then take the points we have in COMMon and unify around them.
    If we can do all that, then you have my support in helping to make it happen. UNITY is, afterall, the other key component of: COMMUNITY.
    Together we CAN make ours thrive!

    1. Ed Abrahams says:

      It is definitely a question as to whether an amendment like this will be accepted. As for what happens if it passes, we (by which I mean anyone who wants in) make a list of the issues and try to address them one by one. Maybe with slower phase in, maybe with other ways to reduce more plastic that are easier in exchange for allowing some types of water sales.

      I don’t have answers and it would be wrong of me to assert them if I did. I just want us to be able to have the discussion.

      1. Steve Farina says:

        My son has some answers. He reached out to an organization that is doing just that. The director is a native of eastern Massachusetts who followed the events in Concord closely and saw the errors in that approach – the approach which passed at our ATM.
        He will be reading his letter and her reply during the meeting. His effort is quite impressive, and though he is old enough to vote, he too is among the youth of our community.

  2. Tom Norton says:

    Your noble effort here is symbolic of the malaise that afflicts our entire nation. There is no compromise, no working together between the opposite approaches, the extreme fringes have commandeered the whole discussion into us versus them, extreme tribalism. Perhaps we can set an example here for the rest of the nation as well. Bring the opposite sides together and hammer out a solution. Remember, Great Barrington threw out the judges here, before the real tea party happened that spawnef the American Revolution.

  3. Erik Bruun says:

    This sounds like a very sensible path.

  4. Danny Klein says:

    I really like your idea, Ed. What a concept — working together to try to find a compromise!

  5. W.C. says:

    Keep it on the agenda and one way or another get over and done with. From what I am hearing the ban is DOA.

  6. Carl Stewart says:

    Ed Abrahams’ call for the opposing sides to try to reconcile their differences makes a lot of sense but the question must be asked why it needed to take so long for there to finally be an appeal to conciliation?

    The procedural problems for Monday night seem considerable. For example:

    1. Delaying the plastic bottle ban is not on the warrant for the Special Town Meeting. The main purpose of the warrant is to give proper notice to anyone who might have an interest in the issue(s) presented and this has not been done, as far as I know. If action is taken that isn’t authorized by the warrant then anyone disappointed by the result could file an Open Meeting Law complaint.

    2. Has the Attorney General approved the plastic bottle bylaw passed at Town Meeting? If this hasn’t been done when the meeting is called to order on Monday evening, what exactly are the petitioners seeking to overturn? A non-law, it would seem.

    3. I believe, but I defer to the learned Michael Wise on this, that if the consensus of opinion is that there should not be a vote on Monday, the proper motion is for adjournment to a date certain, which would most logically be the date of Town Meeting next May. Presumably, another possibility would be to adjourn sine die. Tabling would almost certainly not be proper under generally accepted rules of parliamentary procedure.

    4. If the motion to adjourn passes (simple, not a supermajority, I think) then if the ban is ultimately approved by the Attorney General and it takes effect prior to the next Annual Town Meeting, then another Special meeting would be required to postpone the effective date of the ban, if this delay appears to be the will of the majority.

    A bigger mess than it needed to be, which probably could have been avoided if some serious thought and consultation between the opposing sides had happened prior to the development of the original warrant language.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Aside from my several comments with solutions to unify around, which were all met with non-response, the timing is actually quite good on Ed’s proposal. Regardless of when people on either side of the issue sat down, this process was too far in motion to not have it addreseed in a Town Meeting.

      1. I agree with your first point, it is what I said above.

      2. As with the bylaw which qs approved, the wording can be modified in the motion put before the Town, eliminating the potential conflict.
      Also, the AG’s office has not yet performed a susbstantive review of the bylaw, and perhaps could with agreement of the Select Board, delay that review until after the nexr ATM. This would afford the opportunity to implement Ed’s plan as put forth.

      3. If my number 2 point is moot, a vote should be taken – after full discussion of the townspeople.

      4. After performing a substantive review, the AG’s office may determine the wording to be inappropriate and not allow its implementation.

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