Reporter editorial: The new normal?

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Material ready to be hauled away at the Recycling  Center.

Material ready to be hauled away at the Recycling Center.

The discussion by Town Board members at their work session Tuesday was not unusual.

And at the same time, highly unusual.

There was an outline of facts from Town Attorney Laury Dowd on a particular issue before the board, a few relevant questions on specifics, a sober analysis of the practicality of the issue and questions on how to proceed.

The discussion centered on the idea of issuing permits to license haulers of recyclable material such as plastic, paper and aluminum and “wet garbage” — that stuff seven out of 10 Islanders put in town bags and take to the Recycling Center.

So far, so normal.

But what was not so normal was the absence of voices raised about government overreach, excessive regulation and municipalities meddling in private businesses. This political stance of “Get Government Off Our Backs” is not held only by members of the board, but is a banner most Islanders march under.

Remember the apocalyptic work sessions on “dark skies,” all that sound and fury over something as mundane as a simple municipal lighting law? No? Lucky you.

Maybe the board realizes that having a permitting process allows for enforcement, that cowboys driving sanitation trucks can’t just take everything without sorting, mixing recyclables with wet garbage and dumping it in dubious places.

On that score, there is a real environmental benefit to licensing, not just for the Island but also for our neighbors. Highway Superintendent Jay Card, at a presentation on the issue several months ago, noted that there are municipalities that simply don’t care if material is dumped illegally.

“Do we care?” Mr. Card asked rhetorically, and reiterated that the goal of proper recycling is “for the betterment of the environment.”

The board might also have been swayed by another benefit of licensing; giving the town exact numbers on how much stuff is leaving the Island via the commercial haulers.

This could factor in to whether the town should go into the business of hauling its own municipal waste rather than, as the case is now, contracting it out.

One other party to the issue has weighed in calling for licensing. Dan Binder, of Dan’s Carting & Recycling, is all in favor of the government requiring him to get a license to operate.

“I’m in favor of it so the town can get control of what goes on,” Mr. Binder said.

It might be a little early to call this the new normal, but it’s an encouraging sign of people realizing that government can benefit the governed.