Barlow launches clean city initiative

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow on Thursday announced a new "Keep Oswego Clean" Initiative.

OSWEGO — Citing upward trends in quality of life and economic development for the city of Oswego, Mayor Billy Barlow is proposing a package of city-wide regulations aimed at improving public health and environmental stewardship.

Pending approval by the Oswego Common Council, Barlow’s “Keep Oswego Clean Initiative” would ban city-wide sale of consumable styrofoam and double the number of trash cans on city property. Barlow plans to tilt locals toward New York’s plastic bag ban by promoting tote bags as an alternative means of carrying groceries.

Smoking, vaping and tobacco use would be prohibited on city property and at city-sponsored events under the proposed regulations, while fines for littering would be doubled — $100 to $200.

“With the unprecedented growth we are experiencing in the city of Oswego, it makes sense to put forth initiatives that will keep our city clean, promote the health and well-being of our residents and protect our environment by banning toxic products and supporting New York state’s plastic bag ban,” Barlow stated in a Thursday announcement. “The Keep Oswego Clean Initiative will position Oswego as a regional leader by taking proactive steps to protect the environment, reduce litter, improve the condition of our city and promote healthy living.”

City council members will vote on the five-reform package on Monday at their weekly city council meeting. The measures would go into effect April 22, 2020 — Earth Day — giving local businesses and residents a phase-in period of six months.

“Being a waterfront community, we have even more reason to protect our environment,” Barlow said Thursday. “The proposals within this initiative are simple but can have a large, long lasting positive impact.”

Barlow told The Palladium-Times that he’s planning to incorporate newly proposed regulations prohibiting littering and smoking under the city’s quality of life patrol funds. Code enforcement officials would then have the leverage to penalize individuals for what Barlow called “an education tool.”

Regarding the styrofoam ban, Barlow is taking aim at single-use containers like coffee cups and take-out boxes, “given in a to-go situation.” The mayor is looking to eliminate styrofoam cups, plates, coolers and “other items that are traditionally sold in retail stores.”

“If a business item arrives to their location in styrofoam, that is of course out of their control, but they can not actually sell styrofoam products,” Barlow told The Palladium-Times in a Thursday interview.  

Reaction from local businesses on Thursday following Barlow’s announcement ranged from indifference to mild annoyance at having to wean off of the ubiquitous, inexpensive styrofoam. Paul’s Big M store manager Diane Vickery said the styrofoam ban would “probably be good for the environment,” but  said she would need to use the six-month grace period to transition to other materials.

“It would affect our deli and our meats departments,” Vickery told the The Palladium-Times on Thursday, adding styrofoam is an accessible, efficient form of containing raw meat. “I don’t know what we’d use instead. I guess we’d have to look into it.”

The initiative’s styrofoam ban would also force Port City Dunkin’ Donuts locations to make a similar shift as counterparts in other parts of the state that moved to use only paper cups.

“I suspect they will make the same transition here in Oswego if the community supports it,” Barlow said.

A local Dunkin’ Donuts manager declined to comment for this story, and the company’s communication office did not respond in time for print. This story will be updated online.

More than 100 municipalities around the nation have instituted laws limiting the use of styrofoam including New York City, Albany County and Suffolk County.

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