Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Carrot, No Stick

The Key West City Commission took away the stick that was part of the recycling ordinance that was before them for second reading and approval on Wednesday evening, but they failed to offer a carrot in its stead. Rather, the Commissioners gutted the ordinance of its mandatory-ness and made it into a purely voluntary thing. If that's all that was required, then an ordinance wasn't necessary at all, merely a publicity program that appealed to citizens' better natures.

The ordinance, as drafted and supported by a cadre of environmentally conscious individuals and organizations, sponsored by Commissioner Teri Johnston (who I'm proud to say is now our Commissioner, or will be when we change our addresses with the Supervisor of Elections), and strongly supported by Mayor McPherson, had its heart removed by taking out any and all penalties for failure to recycle, now and in the future.

In the end, only those two stood fast and voted as they did during first reading. Commissioners Lopez and Gibson both changed their votes, and then supported the watered-down version that was eventually passed. Despite expert research that proves that a toothless recycling ordinance, even if called "mandatory", results in much lower participation rates than one that applies a gentle slap on the wrist for casual violations, and increasingly more stringent action for those who would be scofflaws.

It was a failed opportunity for the reluctant Commissioners to show some backbone, and its too bad.

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