Press Talk: Benton needs to walk the litter walk

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor.

Oh, there are probably more than a few readers who consider my column no more than litter.

Especially state Sen. Don Benton, who just also happens to be the county’s environmental services director.

So, when a reader’s email came to me a few days ago saying I might be interested in a little bit of litter he found, I was intrigued.

But back to Benton. Yes, yes, I know Benton couldn’t tell the difference between coliform and cauliflower. But that didn’t matter when his good buddies County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke slipped him in through the back door to begin his cushy $100,000-plus-a-year county job.

Now, I admit I’m guilty of holding the M&M boys and Benton accountable for their goofball decisions. I’ll also admit that I ride these boys pretty hard. But what’s a guy to do when they simply won’t stop doing stupid stuff? Oh my!

The result? Out of nowhere Benton suggests that maybe the county should put a litter tax on newspapers. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Tax us rascals who hold politicians accountable. But that’s not all. The suggestion goes further. Benton says let’s tax only daily newspapers that — let’s see — have about 30,000 circulation.

Well, I’ll be! Those caveats would only hit (dramatic pause required here) The Columbian.

Now who would have thunk it?

As you might imagine, this silliness has gone national. In fact, Fox News in New York called me for an interview.

One of my favorite exchanges in the interview went something like this:

Reporter: “Sen. Benton said his suggestion was not retaliatory.”

Me: “Have you ever spoken to a politician who said something he did WAS retaliatory?”

But back to that curious email I received a few days ago. It was from Jim Carrie, a 61-year-old construction worker who’d noticed something.

Jim, by the way, said he’s an avid reader of my column, so he is well aware of this suggested litter tax. (He also made it clear he doesn’t always agree with my column.)

After reading his email, I agreed to meet Jim out on Northeast Highway 99. He said he sometimes walks there because his wife works down the road.

There always appears to be litter in the ditch, Jim said. After Benton made his claim that The Columbian was a guilty party when it comes to littering, he began looking at the litter, trying to see how many Columbians were in there.

The result? When I asked him if he had seen any Columbians in his walks down Highway 99, he said he has not.

Certainly he’s seen empty bottles, beer cans, cigarette boxes, hamburger wrappers and one other curious thing:

Don Benton campaign signs.

Oh my!

So, if I have this straight, the guy proposing that The Columbian pay a litter tax might be better served if he proposed a tax on himself … for littering.

I asked Jim what he thought of all of this. And I have to admit, I couldn’t have said it any better than Jim did:

“He (Benton) has a tendency to point fingers. You have to be careful with that, because fingers can point back.”

And Sen. Benton, if you decide to take care of this, please let us know. We’d like to get some photos of you taking care of the mess you’ve made in our county.