Orange votes to support changing the state flag, keeping plastic bags 

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/19/2018 11:44:42 PM

ORANGE — Change the state flag, but keep plastic bags.

That’s how Orange residents voted Tuesday night during the second and final leg of the annual Town Meeting.

The 2019 fiscal year budget of $20.1 million was adopted Monday night — a modest increase over this year’s $19.6 million budget — and it included many cuts to services due largely to increasing costs of health care and special education and contractual pay increases.

Article 33, which passed after little debate, calls for Orange to pass a resolution supporting a bill introduced by state Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Suffolk, which would create a special commission to investigate and recommend changes tothe state flag and seal.

The Massachusetts state flag and seal depict a Native American holding a bow against a blue shield as a backdrop, and with an arm holding a sword above the shield.

The article claimed that the flag should be changed because of the “many abuses of racism” suffered by Native Americans. It also claims the symbolism of the flag is inappropriate because the broadsword depicted is supposedly that of Myles Standish, a colonist who led attacks against Native Americans in the 17th century.

Those who opposed the resolution said the flag was a part of Massachusetts state history, and that misplaced political correctness is leading to the erasure of that history.

Now that the resolution passed, the town must send copies of the resolution to local state representatives.

The plastic bag ban article was the main point of debate on the night.

The article called for banning the sale, distribution or usage of plastic bags at checkout at any Orange grocery store or retail store, with exceptions for things like newspapers and meat. Fines would be given out to noncompliant businesses.

Those in favor of the article said reusable bags are available for free throughout town, like at the Quabbin Harvest, and are a good way to reduce pollution.

Others said the negative effects of reusable cloth bags outweighed the positive ones.

“While reusable bags are a nice thought … people don’t bother to clean them,” said George Willard, who was concerned about germs being spread at places that sell food.

Victor and Laurie MacDonald, who recently set up a plastic bag recycling program at the Orange Transfer Station, showed up to oppose the ban and were commended by others who were in opposition.

“Rather than passing prohibitions on plastic bags, I think we should be passing out awards tonight,” said Ann Reed, who mentioned the MacDonalds as well as businesses in town that have voluntarily adopted eco-friendly bagging practices — Trail Head Outfitters & General Store, for example, uses paper bags.

A similar ban was passed in neighboring Athol last year, which Victor MacDonald said has discouraged people from shopping there and has been a burden on the poor, who rely on the sturdiness of plastic bags.

“Please give recycling a chance,” said Victor MacDonald, adding that the recycling program him and his wife have set up is on pace to recycle over 30,000 plastic bags a year.

The article was shot down with 49 opposing and 43 in favor.

Another large item on the warrant — which passed — called for the Selectboard to borrow $750,000 to repair a four-tenths-of-a-mile section of North Main Street.

Selectboard member Jane Peirce said passing the article was critical, because if the aging and damaged culvert under that section of road — which will also be repaired through the project — ever failed, that section of road would be impassable, rerouting residents down side streets to get to the elementary schools.

She also noted the project is a good deal. Orange only has to pay $750,000 for preliminary engineering on the project, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is willing to fund the construction costs, estimated to be at least $5 million.

Reach David McLellan at
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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