Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bubbleheads at the Times

The NY Times endorsed the expansion of the state's bottle bill today; and, in what we have come to expect from the out of touch editorial board, failed to address any of the concerns expressed by beleaguered food retailers in New York City: "Only rarely does one solution solve a lot of problems. One that does — or at least could — is New York’s Bigger Better Bottle Bill...The bill would reduce litter in rivers and on highways, encourage recycling, save on natural resources and help replenish environmental programs whose budgets have been cut during the economic downturn."

So apparently the move over to Eight Avenue hasn't improved the perspective of these ivory tower elitists; and we're waiting for the first Times editorial to address the fact that the city is hemorrhaging supermarkets and bodegas-depleting neighborhoods of sorely needed food outlets. We can't understand why they remain so out of touch; after all, their own David Gonzales laid out the severity of the problem in the paper last year.

In that piece, Gonzales pointed out: "A continuing decline in the number of neighborhood supermarkets has made it harder for millions of New Yorkers to find fresh and affordable food within walking distance of their homes, according to a recent city study. The dearth of nearby supermarkets is most severe in minority and poor neighborhoods already beset by obesity, diabetes and heart disease."

A large part of the underlying cause of this decline is the cost of doing business here in the city; and the bottle bill is one of the most costly of the regulations foisted on supermarkets in NYC-where space constraints make it difficult for stores to generate robust profits. None of this has penetrated the editorial miasma at the Times.

The paper even endorses the taking of the unredeemed deposits, saying that; "Right now, when consumers pay a nickel per bottle upfront and then fail to redeem that bottle, the forgone nickel goes to the beverage industry. The stores obviously deserve a reasonable handling fee, but the beverage companies, which have powerful friends in Albany, deserve less than the windfall they are getting now."

Well, the stores may deserve a higher handling fee, but that fee-and is increase, of course-will be passed on to the already strapped consumers. And, if the nickels are taken by the state, an even greater cost increase will be passed on; and the nickels will prove to be an undependable revenue stream for any environmental purpose. And where does the Times stand on the soda tax? How much is the Times willing to have the consumers of New York absorb just to satisfy its ideological penchants?

The bottle bill acts as a duplication of effort-competing with the city's costly curbside program for the same material. The containers-garbage that generates rodents and insects-doesn't belong in the city's food stores. Increasing the number of eligible containers only exacerbates the problem. At a time when the city needs to protect and nurture its supermarkets, following the NY Times is a recipe for disaster.