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Special town meeting unnecessarily messy

In her letter Carol Diehl writes: "The petition to repeal the single-serve plastic water bottle ban might never even have come up if the proponents of the ban had, from the beginning, presented it in a way that related it specifically to the needs of Great Barrington."

To the editor:

Despite the stellar performance of moderator Mike Wise, the special town meeting of Aug. 6 was a mess, unnecessarily confusing and divisive, and for one reason only: The pros and cons of the two main warrant articles (the petition to repeal the single-serve plastic water bottle ban and to authorize the purchase of 11 Roger Road, both voted down) were not supported with enough facts and figures to make a clear judgment.

Consequently, voters were acting on emotion, which is no way to execute legislation.

The petition to repeal the single-serve plastic water bottle ban might never even have come up if the proponents of the ban had, from the beginning, presented it in a way that, rather than showing images of the Pacific Ocean, related it specifically to the needs of Great Barrington.

What percentage of GB’s plastic waste consists of such bottles? What is this in terms of tonnage and area? What is the cost to the town of processing this waste? How much of this waste is recycled and where does the recycled material go? What are the statistics regarding a possible increase in sales of sweetened drinks in heavier containers? What would be the combined cost to local merchants and nonprofits whose bottom lines would be affected?

Mention was made of proposed water fountains and filling stations, but here also questions remained: How many filling stations would there be and where would they go? When would they be installed? What would be the cost of each and who would pay for them? Who would maintain them? Are they sanitary? Would the water be filtered? Would they function in winter?

That the plastic shopping bag ban passed without a hitch shows that Great Barrington residents care about their environment and are inspired to act wholeheartedly when the benefits are clearly articulated.

Same with the article to authorize the purchase of 11 Roger Road. Although I have been following this issue since the beginning, I still don’t understand the entire story, and the selectboard’s and lawyer’s arguments left me with more questions than answers.

What was lacking was a presentation that would bring voters up-to-date on the history, clearly laying out a timeline of events and attempts at possible solutions.

The town meeting form of local government can be a marvelous exercise in democracy that unites the community, but only if sufficient care is taken to present initiatives in a comprehensive, factual and coherent manner.

Carol Diehl
Housatonic

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