So I live in Stratford, a smallish town of 50,000, here in our fair state, New England. Since I am not from this part of the country, I have discovered a curious quirk of the New English people -- they take political landscaping to an entirely different level than anywhere else I have ever lived.
In Connecticut there is no real county government, and the State government is mostly ignored. Instead, there are 169 “municipalities” that all have their own way of doing things. Actually, that is putting it lightly. Town governments in Connecticut are more like rivals on "Survivor", where the shared dialect across townline is usually "F--- you! We're the REAL Daughters of the Revolution and we're preserving our individual, municipal rights, even if we have to use canning jars and vinegar!"
For example, in the case of road maintenance, for example, the municipalities, in total, have 17,115 road miles that they are required to maintain… 4.5 times the number that the State maintains. As a result, the sheer cost of road maintenance (hmmm, every town has their own rules, storage sheds, equipment, crews, etc.) is enormous.
As far as I can see, the only thing consistent across the municipalities is enforced by the State law requiring that a very bored looking police officer be on every roadwork site, either sitting in his squad car reading a Harlequin Romance, or chatting with one or more of the otherwise-idle workers about the imminent threat of terrorism in Haddam Neck.
So, fast forward to this week, when I started to research the RECYCLING PROGRAM in Stratford...
I was curious about it because I discovered that even though I was not allowed to toss certain plastic items in my curbside bin (salad containers, yogurt cups), they were completely acceptable if I would only DRIVE THEM to the town recycling center. This is the case with cardboard as well– accepted at the Town Site but not curbside.
Inefficiency through Ignoring-ance
So I took a peek online at the Recycling Committee of the Town of Stratford. The committee is appointed by Town Council, with two-year terms. I thought Hey, if there’s a space available, maybe I can get appointed. After all, the state of recycling in Stratford (much like the state of their restaurants), is YEARS behind such towns as Andover, Mass. with its extensive but standard program, and other town programs managed by RecycleBank’s points program, initiated in Maple Grove, MN, Sioux Falls, SD and other parts of the nation considered “wildly progressive” by East Coast standards.
It isn’t a surprise that ALL of the terms of the members of the Town of Stratford Recycling Committe are expired (most for more than 5 years) and that the committee is for all intents, defunct. The program like many in the this municipal-fixated state, is languishing in mediocrity while the staunch New Englanders refuse to consider townline-bending systems that would reduce cost and increase creative involvement.
Throwing the Elderly Out with the Bath Water?
Stratford, like many places in Connecticut, is stagnant because of a unique combination of wealth and weariness. I am too old and too set in my ways to change. Plus, I can afford to throw my trash away! The power of that stagnancy has its own snowball effect here, causing entire swathes of useful, thoughtful people to be swallowed up by its mind-numbing ignorance.
We don’t have to be mummified before we are dead, fortunately. Inactivity and ineluctable stubbornness doesn’t have to be the hallmark of “real America”– New English or otherwise.