This being a recession-year Christmas, I've kept my wish list for the county trim.

* The first wish is a County Council plan before next Christmas to get people sorting recyclable items out of their trash for curbside pickup. The council, which voted last week to thumb its nose at a state mandate to have the plan ready by the first of the year, has waffled on this important conservation issue long enough.


When they return from the holiday break, council members should make up for Harford's woeful record on getting residents and businesses in the recycling groove by moving up to spring the start-up of curbside recycling. (Harford is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that hasn't submitted a plan to the state.)

The county executive has proposed having haulers begin curbside collection of sorted recyclables this summer. Too late, guys. St. Nick doesn't look kindly on that enormous waste of recyclables that'll be tossed in the proverbial gutter between now and then.


The big point of disagreement seems to be over whether and how much to charge haulers to dump their truckloads ofwaste for burial or incineration.

End the debate with this diplomatic flair: Halve the proposed fee to $30 and add a provision that the fee would be raised if the county determines within a year that participation levels are not acceptable.

* Next on the list is a new school employee contract which bans smoking by teachers and other school employees inside all schools and other Board of Education-controlled buildings, effective next school year.

The smokers will squawkabout this, but it's the right thing to do. The medical evidence is too weighty that second-hand smoke can cause lung ailments, even cancer.

And then there's the issue of students emulating their mentorsand role models.

You didn't send your kids to school to pick up the drag habit nor for a future in the cancer ward, did you?

If thenew contract, due to be unveiled soon, doesn't include a ban on school employee smoking, my advice is to remember that gas masks could make fashionable stocking stuffers for the little ones this year.

* This item on the wish list is certain to get the morality thumpers red-nosed for the holidays:


A sex-education policy in our public schools that deals with something we tend to forget about when passing information about the adult world on to young people: reality. And that reality is educating middle school-age kids about how -- and why --to use condoms.

In Harford, kids as young as 13 and 14 are havingintercourse and getting pregnant.

Right now, Harford's public school system doesn't include education about condom use in its health classes until the ninth grade.

Some kids today have already had a sexual encounter by then. Yet too few use condoms. For those doing thetango with a lot of partners, the specter of AIDS is high.

Time to ring in the new year with a sex-education policy that's worth cheering about.