Kick in the Butt

The News From Tobaccoville

What's a little bitty cigarette butt when measured against this big, cluttered world of ours?

Bush Compassion
President Bush, in an annual pre-Thanksgiving ritual last week, pardoned a couple of turkeys. "May" and "Flower," as the two were dubbed, were "rescued" by the president and sent to live out their days in Florida. "May they live the rest of their lives in blissful gobbling," the president said at the turkey-pardoning photo-op. Tailpipe has tracked down the pair's new Florida digs, shown here.

Bush Compassion

President Bush, in an annual pre-Thanksgiving ritual last week, pardoned a couple of turkeys. "May" and "Flower," as the two were dubbed, were "rescued" by the president and sent to live out their days in Florida. "May they live the rest of their lives in blissful gobbling," the president said at the turkey-pardoning photo-op. Tailpipe has tracked down the pair's new Florida digs, shown here.

Well, add up all the debris from the world's 1.2 billion smokers and you've got a serious litter problem, to say nothing of lethal chemicals killing plant and animal life and non-biodegradable plastic fibers from filters jamming landfills and waterways.

Some Broward County citizens calling themselves Broward Beautiful, partnering with city and county agencies, recently decided to get a handle on the local problem and come up with some solutions. Focusing on Hollywood's downtown entertainment area, where smokers pop out of bars and restaurants to light up quickies on the sidewalk, volunteers did a one-day butt census in June.

Fort Lauderdale, with its reputation as one of the booze-guzzling capitals of the world, has accordingly taken on the sobriquet Fort Liquordale. Tailpipe might have to lobby to have Hollywood designated Smoketown or Tobaccoville. Broward Beautiful's one-day count of discarded butts, just along Hollywood Boulevard and Harrison Street, was 1,534.

Sounds like a lot, says Lisa Liotta, deputy director of the city's Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency. "But it's probably no worse than any other downtown environment," she says.

Nevertheless, city officials, as well as property and business owners, wanted to be proactive. Do something. Those little bits of paper and fiber cluttering the gutters and sidewalks don't look good.

"One problem is that the average Broward County resident doesn't even know that cigarette butts are considered litter," says the county literature on cigarette litter prevention. "The same person who would never think of tossing garbage like fast food wrappers, drink bottles, or cans out their car window doesn't even consider it litter to toss a cigarette butt on the ground."

Not litter, eh? In last year's International Coastal Cleanup, with volunteers from all over the world spending a day raking beaches and hauling litter from the sea floor, a quarter of the tons of debris collected was cigarette butts and filters.

Unsightly, yes. But also toxic. Most filters are made of cellulose acetate, a fine plastic thread bunched into little bails that trap tars and toxins. Washed into the sea after a big rain, they release poisons that are threatening microcosmic sea life at the bottom of the food chain.

The good news is that cigarette litter can be significantly reduced with a little consciousness-raising and some outdoor ashtrays.

The county paid for 23 cigarette urns (about 100 bucks apiece) and placed them around Hollywood's core restaurant-and-club area (Harrison Street and Hollywood Boulevard between 19th and 20th avenues). Then, two months after the first survey, the butt-counting squad went back. This time they counted 882 discarded butts, a 43 percent reduction.

A long way to go? Sure. But definite signs of progress.

Swimmin' With the Sea Cucumbers

It was big news in 1990 when Atlanta-based company Eternal Reefs came up with a novel alternative to traditional burials. Wouldn't it be great, company founders thought, if after death, you could become part of an underwater reef rather than go six feet under in a casket all alone? The company started mixing cremated human remains with concrete, forming roundish "reef balls" with swiss-cheese-like holes and dropping them on the bottom of the ocean. These days, according to company materials, little fishies are darting in and out of 400,000 reef balls in 3,500 locations around the world.

This month, though, the Neptune Society — the nation's biggest cremation company, with corporate offices in Fort Lauderdale — has upped the ante. Reef balls look like mere cinder blocks compared to Neptune's $30 million project, the Neptune Memorial Reef, a full-blown recreation of the Lost City of Atlantis. Sculptor Kim Brandell has been molding the parts — columns, arches, lions, and a "fish bench" — and the first pieces have been dropped just 3.25 miles off Miami Beach in 45 feet of water. Costs run from $1,500 for placement in a stand-alone column to $7,000 to rest in peace in the bases of the two bronze lions. It took four years to get the required permits for the project, but when the sixteen-acre site sells out, it is expected to hold the remains of 125,000 people — and serve as a primo dive spot.

The 'Pipe doesn't like waxing morbid, but isn't that where most Floridians are heading anyway? With global warming at full throttle, every cemetery in the state promises to be underwater someday.

Oh, you wanted to be underwater in a picturesque locale. Well then, try the Neptune boys.

Felonious Charges

Usually it's a bad idea to go to court against the Seminole Tribe — especially when its police department is involved. But John Thomas, an Air Force serviceman and veteran of the Iraq War, knows a few things about warfare, and his Boca Raton attorney, Alexander Penalta, knows about the legal kind.

As detailed in a New Times article last spring, Thomas was arrested in the early morning hours of April 23, 2006, outside Murphy's Law, a bar within the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino entertainment complex.

Thomas' friend had been involved in a scuffle with a bouncer, and Seminole police alleged that Thomas interfered with the arrest of his friend by pulling Officer Susie Lawson by her shirt, causing her to fall. Thomas was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

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