Southampton’s new mayor, Michael Irving, is seeking a mylar balloon ban. As an important member of the media in this community, Dan’s Papers hereby gives our opinion on this matter.
Yes, mylar balloons are a problem. They last forever. They say CONGRATULATIONS or HAPPY BIRTHDAY and, walking by them, mostly on the beach, they remind you that you just missed that party. This is depressing. Not good. Mylar balloons also get tangled up with sea creatures or birds. Surely something needs to be done.
But is banning mylar balloons a good idea? It is true that other towns on Long Island have banned them. But those have been inland towns, not beachfront. And as Mayor Irving told The Southampton Press, “If you take a look at any of our beaches…they are just all over the place.” And that’s the point.
Dealing with mylar balloon infractions inland is the easy part. Along the beach is another matter. Illegal mylar balloons wash up in droves every day. It will be a huge expense to track down where they came from. Mylar balloons, blown by the wind, travel hundreds and thousands of miles. If you issue a summons to someone who has mylar balloons on Gin Lane but don’t track down the perpetrators who might have had a party in Myanmar or Mongolia, is that fair? Certainly not. Ticketing Gin Lane will result in a lawsuit about the ticketee being singled out while others go free.
Then there are those who take walks on the beach. Say you are walking along, carefully avoiding making contact with the mylar balloons there, but then one leaps up and sticks to your sweater. The authorities will swoop down.
Then there is the weak swimmer, struggling in the surf just offshore with no lifeguards around, who discovers two or three mylar balloons nearby to grab onto that will allow him to swim to shore. Should this swimmer, lying there, holding onto the one thing that saved his life, be given a summons for doing that?
And what about the fishermen? The offshore draggers get balloons caught up in their nets along with the fish. Back at the dock, who will risk plucking the mylar balloons out? Nobody. The same is true with surfcasters. They cast out and latch onto a mylar balloon. It won’t let go by itself. It has to be picked off the hook when you’ve fought it to shore. And who is going to do that with a summons as a result? Nobody.
Finally, there is the matter of disposing of the mylar balloons. They are taken back to the police precinct, popped if inflated, then put in the back room as evidence. So they’re still here. After the trial, even if the mylar is taken to the dump, it’s still here. The only solution is to transfer the mylar to a town or village that doesn’t have laws against mylar. It could be done openly, during the day, or secretly at night, depending on the other town’s position on the matter. Then it’s their problem.
If, in spite of all this, the village does pass the anti–mylar balloon ordinance, there is one good thing that could come of it. From March to June, docents in the Village Environmental Office patrol the beaches to see to it that the endangered Piping Plover birds who nest there are not molested. The docents put up signs reading KEEP OUT. They rope off parts of the beach so the Plovers aren’t scared off by Frisbee throwers or boom-box music players. The docents write summonses. But then, in July, the Piping Plover babies hatch, grow and fly off, and the docents have nothing to do until the following April.
A ban on mylar balloons will solve this problem. In July, the piping plover docents take on the mylar balloon perps. They scan the seas. Watch the mylar drift in. Issue the summonses. The fines they collect for mylar violations—summer parties are major centers of this illegal activity—will be a blessing to Village coffers. So will mylar fines that come in from abroad.
So that’s our opinion. And now we’ve said it. So, Southampton Village, do your worst.