Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Doug Clark: Conserve our tax dollars, not our trees

I got a case of government heartburn when the Spokane City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to start buying only recycled paper.

Especially since doing so will cost nearly six grand more a year than the city pays now for politically incorrect old-paper paper.

The council members call this going green.

To me it’s a typical waste of greenbacks.

One of the chronic problems with government is that too many of the do-gooders we elect believe that the money they’re spending is theirs, not ours.

Aw, sure, $5,900 is but a droplet in the city’s budget ocean.

Unless you take it to the food bank, that is, where that much scratch buys nearly 18 tons of food.

Government has bigger appetites.

As Council President Ben Stuckart noted in an earlier news story, switching exclusively to recycled paper will save about 700 trees a year.

Oh. Heavenly. Daze.

First off, Ben, trees do grow back.

That’s one of the pluses about trees.

And second off …

Walk around town and ask citizens if they have an extra $6K to spend on higher car payments or grocery bills. I’m betting “NO” will be the predominant response.

According to the story, the city “already had a purchasing preference for recycled products.” But this new proposal “would make it a requirement when the additional cost is no more than 15 percent higher.”

Look. I’m all for saving the planet.

Most of the time, anyway. While flipping channels Sunday night, I happened to pause on a cable show about this smarmy polygamist with a mullet, several wives and a cow pie-eating grin.

A couple of minutes of him had me rooting for the dinosaurs to take over again.

Fortunately, I switched to a show about living in Alaska and regained my faith in humanity.

But getting back to recycling, lately I’ve been tossing at least 60 percent of my Diet 7-Up cans into the blue bin.

Don’t laugh.

That’s actually quite an improvement. My can-recycling stats are usually more dismal than Wazzu’s Rose Bowl odds.

Don’t misunderstand. I think it’s commendable that we have people on our council who are excited about healing the honeybees and protecting the titmouse.

Or whatever.

But shouldn’t the higher goal be about being a responsible steward of the taxpayers’ money?

That’s always a hard notion for our elected officials to learn. Which is why I have come up with the Clark Pay-As-You-Vote Amendment.

What is the Clark Pay-As-You-Vote Amendment, you ask?

Well, take this paper thing. Wouldn’t it be great if after the measure passed, one of the city bean counters blew a whistle and …

Accountant: “OK. The ayes have it. The city of Spokane will now exclusively be using recycled paper. So that’ll be $983.33 each.”

Stuckart: “Wha’?”

Accountant: “Six of you voted for this. So under the Clark Amendment, each of you have to split the $5,900 extra cost, which is just under $984 apiece.”

Stuckart: “Damn that Clark.”

Accountant: “Yes, but it is for the trees, remember?

Stuckart: “I guess.”

Accountant: “Oh, and Ben?”

Stuckart: “Yeah?”

Accountant: “No checks this time. That last one bounced higher than an axle over one of our potholes.”

See what a fair system this would be?

The council could focus on all the big, global hoo-haw concerns it wanted as long they pay the freight.

Financial sustainability. What a concept?

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at