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Published June 13, 2013, 09:19 AM

Recycling stirs up Grand Forks council drama following Facebook gaffe

Grand Forks, ND - A Facebook slip-up had one Grand Forks City Council member in hot water Wednesday, marking another piece of the communitywide tussle over expanding the city’s recycling program.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald, Forum News Service

Grand Forks, ND - A Facebook slip-up had one Grand Forks City Council member in hot water Wednesday, marking another piece of the communitywide tussle over expanding the city’s recycling program.

Council members received an email Tuesday night with a screen shot of a Facebook status posted by Tyrone Grandstrand of Ward 2.

The status was part of an email campaign urging residents to contact their council members and voice their support for expanding the recycling program.

Grandstrand told the Herald Wednesday he copied the status from someone else but failed to see one line of text that would have his fellow council members demanding an apology.

“It seems that it is actually a very popular idea among the 40 & under demographic (though not among the dead white males on the council),” the post read.

Reaction

Council President Hal Gershman said he was disappointed when he scrolled down his email and read the post.

“I was quite shocked at the wording. It was unnecessary and doesn’t advance an argument,” he said. “We don’t refer to each other in those terms.”

Grandstrand, the youngest member of the council at 27, said a Facebook friend pointed out the gaffe and he has since removed the post. He also sent out an apology and explanation to the council.

The post does address a concern Grandstand said he encountered when he spoke with residents while campaigning for council.

“I think people don’t feel that they’re well represented on various issues,” he said. “This happens to be one of those issues.”

Council member Bret Weber had a similar theory. He said the zinger was likely a comment on the fact there is little gender or ethnic diversity on the council.

It was a humorous compliment of sorts to compare the council to old dead white guys, Weber added with a laugh — a list he said could include men such as Shakespeare and Plato.

Passion

While the comment may not have originated from Grandstrand, it’s part of a greater recycling program debate.

The program has been recording yearly increases between 5 and 11 percent since 2003 — the year it was almost axed by the council.

Council members at the time said they would consider ending the program if it didn’t gain popularity and record a 6 percent increase in collections compared to 2002. In the following seven months, the program saw a 6.5 percent jump in recyclables.

The increased participation showed residents’ appreciation for the program, Council member Dorette Kerian said in October 2003.

This time around, the decision of whether or not to expand the program is drawing similar reaction from residents.

Weber said he has received a number of letters from his constituents on the matter. All of the letters are in favor of the program and a majority of writers prefer expanding it.

“People are going out of their way to voice their passionate support for this program,” he said.

Grandstrand has received similar emails.

While some residents are in support, council member Terry Bjerke said he has received calls from people who don’t want another large bin in their garage if the council chooses to spring for new containers under the expansion.

Motivation

With feedback pouring in, council members have their theories about why people in the community are so passionate about recycling.

Some see recycling as a social responsibility, according to Weber. For others it may be a feel-good gesture.

“It’s easy to poke fun at it for being feel-good, but why shouldn’t people feel good about it?” Weber said.

Grandstrand said he sees it from money standpoint.

“I care a lot about it,” he said. “And it costs a lot of money to build a landfill. The further we can push (building another landfill) off, the better.”

Bjerke, an adamant opponent of program for years, said he isn’t buying any of those arguments.

“It’s a money loser and everyone admits that,” he said. “It saves space in the landfill, that’s correct, but it doesn’t save money.”

If it’s not about the money, Bjerke said all that’s left is an emotional need to save the earth.

“I’m not emotionally attached to a piece of dirt,” he said.

While some may see saving the planet as an emotional motivation, Grandstrand said it also can be seen in terms of dollars and cents by placing a monetary value on the planet. People should focus on leaving the planet in good shape for the next generation, he added.

“Another planet would be expensive to buy,” Grandstrand joked.

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