AP NEWS

Some grass never grows in Hartford

January 29, 2019

I love the two-party system. Everything is so beautifully black-and-white. Yep, no shades of gray.

OK. Pardon me while I barf into this Dunkin’ bag on my desk. That is all so wrong.

In Washington, I’ve never been more convinced that literally nothing occurs to benefit anyone other than lobbyists and the kleptocrats.

The two-party system is unwieldy and messy.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that anything at all gets accomplished in the State Capitol, where lawmakers at least feign cordiality when they emerge from their web-weaving warrens in the Legislative Office Building.

So, you look for the little things. Some incremental positivity; a silver lining behind the gun smoke enveloping the grassy knoll.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled that the Democrats won substantial majorities in the General Assembly, but at least now they have enough rope to hang themselves over the next two years, as Gov. Ned Lamont, the professed small-business guy, navigates a $20-billion shark tank.

As detached as I feel about the day-to-day frivolities of governance in the Capitol — the Kabuki Theater of budget negotiations, with its dueling news conferences and phantom $300-million savings; the mysterious gushers of imaginary revenue, spewing like chocolate fountains at a shotgun wedding — there are occasionally good things accomplished.

Same-sex marriage; firearms-safety measures after Sandy Hook; reduced criminal penalties for drug possession; the now oh-so-quaint law against drivers’ use of handheld cell phones ...

Sometimes it’s hard not to take a rooting interest in a proposal. One of my pet subjects has been the effort to stop the use of chopped-up car tires as a playing surface for athletic fields.

In case you’ve been out of high school for a while, or don’t have children, those grass playing fields of your youth were mostly converted to phony green blades of synthetic, petrochemical polymers a long time ago.

The fields are durable, but dubious. I play soccer on the stuff, in all weather, and the ball always bounces true. If anything, it can lure a young player into a false sense of reality. What kind of life lessons can you learn without an occasional weird hop on a tuft of crabgrass? But let’s lean away from existential angst.

The industry calls the recycled tires “crumb rubber,” in a euphemism that belies the volatile organic compounds that make up the stuff. You run around on it, and the particles end up in your shoes, socks, hair, hands, forehead ...

In the summer time, a chopped-tire soccer field, or playground, literally stinks of industrial waste. The sun causes chemical reactions and smelly outgassing. The surface radiates like a frying pan.

Old tires are considered hazardous waste, yet in this age of situational science, industry lobbyists and a certain kind of lawmaker, have been able to stifle truth. The previous two years, a senator from Meriden named Len Suzio, co-chairman of the legislative Committee on Children, was able to kill an otherwise inane bill that would order a moratorium on the use of the material in playgrounds until the emergence of better science.

Right. Imagine a toddler sitting at the bottom of a slide in a chopped-tire playground on a hot summer day, breathing in those gases, or even munching on the tiny black pieces of rubber stuck to her hands.

Back in 2017, Suzio, an ultra-con who was co-chair by virtue of the 18-18 tie in the Senate, said there was no reason to have a moratorium because the EPA was soon going to have a study on the material. This was in the early days of the Trump EPA, a since-gelded regulatory authority that has yet to meet a hydrocarbon with which it hasn’t fallen in love and eloped.

The voters dumped Suzio in November for Mary Daugherty Abrams, a Democrat who is the new co-chairman of the kids’ panel. So the moratorium has a much-better chance to succeed this year. But at this point, the legislation for childrens’ health should be an outright ban on the stuff for playgrounds and athletic fields.

There are now other materials, as proven in Greenwich, if towns and cities want to invest in more-durable surfaces than traditional grass.

The bill in the Committee on Children is not to be confused with the one before the Environment Committee, co-sponsored by ultra-progressive state Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden, to “prohibit the state and municipalities from purchasing and using artificial turf.”

Yep, no shades of gray.

Ken Dixon, political editor and columnist, can be reached at 203-842-2547 or at kdixon@ctpost.com. Visit him at twitter.com/KenDixonCT and on Facebook at kendixonct.hearst.

AP RADIO
Update hourly