On Democracy & Garbage

I love Town Meetings, our annual bit of democracy where We, the People, make some of the decisions that affect our lives.  Town Meetings can be contentious, but full, open discussions and debates are how good decisions by citizens come about.

If we had Real Democracy, we would discuss and vote on state and national matters at Town Meeting.  Then, after our decisions were made, we would elect our representatives to higher office based on their support for our decisions.

Town Meeting issues are a microcosm of problems everywhere.  For example, garbage, always a winner in the time taken up category.  Who should deal with it, how, what will disposal cost, recycling, and so on.  There is lots of money to be made in the garbage business.

I’ll write soon on garbage brought into Maine from away, and what’s being done – or not – about it.  Meanwhile……..

Garbage was an important item at the Jonesport Town Meeting a few days ago.  First Selectman William “Bimbo” Look supported a proposal to change the town’s garbage handling from our 6-town co-operative transfer station to a private hauler.

The transfer station is run by a Board with a representative from each town.  The workers recycle stuff you wouldn’t think could be recycled, all plastics and even the metal in old mattresses.  The place is clean and well-run.

An added feature is a separate little building called “Too Good to Toss.”  People bring in clothes, books, household goods, toys, tools, anything that’s still usable but no longer needed.

Then any of us in the six towns can take as much or as little as we like home.  Free.

Unfortunately, no written proposal from the private hauler was available, but it’s known that he does little recycling.  He claimed he would be cheaper than the transfer station; much discussion ensued.

People pointed out that if Jonesport removed itself from the co-operative transfer station, the transfer station might not be able to sustain itself.

If it closed, the other towns would essentially be forced to go with this private garbage hauler, who would then have a monopoly, so consideration of Jonesport’s neighbors was a major consideration.

An important factor was that we, the people in the six towns, control our transfer station; if the contract were to go to the private hauler, we would never have any say over prices or services.

Yet another consideration was that Jonesport people would never again be allowed to use the Too Good to Toss building, with its free, good stuff people bring in. Even in this relatively low-income area, I’ve found wool blazers, silk blouses, nice pants, good books, extra dishes, etc., all for free.

The Jonesport Town Meeting garbage issue was a microcosm of larger debates going on all over the world; private profiteering and ownership of resources versus cooperation and democratic decision-making by the people.

In the end, in Jonesport, for now, the people won.