Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Papa’s Got A "Recycled" Bag

A new proposal would require stores over 5,000 square feet to setup an in-store recycling program and to sell reusable bags. The bags would have a consumer reminder printed on them such as “Please return this bag to a participating store for recycling.” Recycled bags can then be used to produce new bags and a variety of other products, even furniture. If passed, the new law would affect some 700 food stores and retailers in the city. It still needs final approval from the city council and Mayor Bloomberg.

Years ago, we gave up our use of brown paper bags to save our forests. Paper bags were replaced by plastic ones. Environmentalists now believe it takes years for these plastic bags to biodegrade and that they pollute our soil and water. A more responsible “green” policy here would reduce that danger and the oil needed to make plastic bags by millions of barrels annually. Seems like an environmentally sound idea on many levels.

Other cities around the world have mandated these changes. New York City should too. I believe that swift passage of this bill is … in the bag.

Work Here But Live Where?

Last year, Mayor Bloomberg introduced legislation to permit members of the city’s largest municipal labor union (District Council 37) to work for city government but live in nearby Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Putnam, Nassau or Suffolk counties if they so chose. At present, DC 37’s 175,000 union members must reside within the five boroughs of New York City. Lawmakers have yet to act on the Mayor’s proposal. Many believe instead that city jobs should be given to city residents.

It seems reasonable that a city be able to mandate residency as a condition of employment. In a similar policy, public schools are only open to city children. People who work and live here support the city much more than those making money here and then scramming across city borders to spend their paychecks elsewhere. That’s one argument. On the other hand, it seems unfair for government to demand that its employees setup home in New York City's environs if they and their families can live better nearby.

Tough to choose who is right and who is wrong. Both sides’ arguments have merit. But perhaps it’s just a matter of how the issue is framed that makes the choice difficult.

In the end, workers have freedom and flexibility to work anywhere that their skills allow. If they work here, they do because they’ve determined it’s in their best interests to do so. However, a city cannot move around like an individual. Its borders may be altered a bit over time but basically, its latitude and longitude remain unchanged. A city must do what’s in its best interests to remain vital … and to stay on the map! Therefore, if it can be proven that it’s in New York City’s best interests to have employees be residents, then that must be the only position city politicians and the mayor should support. Many qualified Americans would gladly move here to live in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island or the Bronx if it meant getting a good city job with benefits.

The “I Love New York” theme song should play loudly during all official talks on this matter. It should resonate in the minds of our politicians and city workers. Do what’s best for New York City in this matter and you’ll be doing what’s best for true New Yorkers.