'Flow control': An arcane law that should never have been put on the books in the first place
August 24, 2010 · 10:09 AM
I rarely ever write a letter to the editor. However, when a front page article, "Our solid waste dilemma" (Aug. 18 Journal, page 1), spends about a quarter of its space treating us like little kids and threatening us with the bogey man ... "it is unlawful for any person to dispose of controlled solid waste ... except at County-authorized disposal sites ...", it is time to respond.
We have a lot of silly laws. To wit, 19 states prohibit oral copulation between married partners. Washington, in fact, prohibits sex with a virgin even on her wedding night. (I wonder how they become non-virgins ... must be an out-of-state event.) www.journalism.sfsu.edu/flux/gSpot/sexLaw.html.
Does anyone really think threatening us with a stupid "flow control" law is going to change our behavior? Theoretically, if I take my lunch on the ferry to Anacortes and dispose of the waste there, I am breaking the law. State law requires us to carry a trash bag in our car. If we empty it at all, we must be breaking the "flow control" laws as the waste undoubtedly was accumulated in several counties over a period of time.
And then comes the clincher ... the biggest waste producer of all (Town of Friday Harbor) is exempt from this law because it is politically expedient to do so. Does that make sense? Seems that really puts a damper on the purpose of the flow control law. And then when Friday Harbor disposes of its recyclables at the county dump because it is free and saves transportation charges to the mainland, that really makes sense under the "flow control" laws. Come on ... our governments are supposed to be working for us under the umbrella of the "greatest good."
I have lived in a number of states and a number of different counties and cities. They all had the same waste disposal challenge, but this is the first time I have ever been threatened with being a criminal if I disposed of my waste elsewhere. I would think government would be happy that I was disposing of it in a waste facility rather than just dumping it (I can understand why that would be illegal).
And ... why does anyone care if we dispose of recyclables off-island when the county loses money on it and doesn't charge for it anyway? Seems we would want to encourage transportation to other counties that gladly accept it free of charge. Wouldn't this reduce a loss leader for the county?
Many cities and counties have solved their cash flow problems (and let's face it, this issue is really only about money) by taxing parcels for waste disposal. Every parcel is taxed the same whether they generate waste or not and whether they are city or county. The government then contracts for disposal services on a competitive basis. It has worked well in every place that I have lived. And why not? Waste disposal is a high public priority or should be. The government sets the policy and private enterprise does the work. The purpose of taxes are to address high public priorities. Yet, the alternatives sent out for comment did not even list this method of funding as an alternative.
What is going on? Maybe our waste management officials should spend more time looking at how other communities have solved their problems and quit spending their time trying to control public comment and threatening us with arcane laws that should never have been put on the books in the first place. And ... shame on the Prosecuting Attorney for being drawn into this dumb argument and threatening us with a law that is not only unenforceable, but downright ridiculous. And ... shame on the County and Town for not being able to work together and solve this mess to the benefit of all of us.
What is local government for anyway?