Is Pullman sui generis? Or is the antipathy he observes the result of the meddling efforts by Chuck and his liberal academic chums to introduce envirofascist Nanny Statism into Pullman, such as a tax on plastic bags modeled after what Mayor Greg "Hugo Chavez" Nickels has attempted in Seattle?
I'll have much more on this later as I contemplate mounting a counter-effort to shoot this absurd proposal down.
From Friday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Liz Siler counted 22 discarded plastic shopping bags during a recent drive through College Hill in Pullman.
Some bags were caught in trees, while others were lying on lawns or blowing in the street.
"None of those bags were obtained with the idea that it was going to end up on the side of the road, but that's where they end up," Siler said.
Siler is among a group of Pullman residents who want to cut back on the use and distribution of plastic bags. Nearly 80 community members have endorsed a proposal that stores be required to charge 20 cents for each plastic bag dispensed inside city limits.
Plastic bags used for unpackaged items, such as produce, would be exempt from the fee.
The group recently submitted the proposal to the Pullman City Council for consideration, with the goal of having an ordinance go into effect Jan. 1.
Siler said in place of plastic bags, shoppers could get into the habit of keeping reusable bags tucked in their car.
"We're not trying to make things harder for people," she said. "We're trying to make things easier."
The proposal shouldn't be viewed as elitist, said Pullman resident Chuck Pezeshki. It will encourage change and show that residents respect and care for their community.
Though the commonly used bags are compact and currently free, Pezeshki said "there's a hidden cost for society" because many recycling facilities - such as WSU Recycling and Pullman Disposal Inc. - no longer accept the bags.
"If we can't recycle, we've got to reduce and reuse," he said, adding that lightweight bags can travel quickly through the wind or waterways.
The bags are made from petroleum and do not biodegrade, Pezeshki said. In fact, the plastic bags "photodegrade" in the presence of light, meaning they break into tiny pieces and can be eaten by animals. The bags also pose risks to animals that can become entangled in them.
"It's basically spreading petroleum all over the landscape," he said. "When you use a plastic bag, it's like an oil slick all over the land."
Siler said the idea to limit plastic bag use isn't new. She points to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' recent proposal to charge a "green tax" on disposable shopping bags, and added that San Francisco and communities throughout Alaska have banned the bags entirely. Ireland and China recently took similar action.
The Pullman group points to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency to justify its cause - 4,630 tons of plastic bags, wraps and sacks were generated in the United States in 2006, of which only 8 percent were reused. The EPA also reports that a family of four uses about 1,500 bags per year.
Siler said the group has met some opposition from a few community members who are concerned they would have no way to pick up their pet waste or line garbage cans without plastic bags.
"No one's saying you can't have plastic bags," Siler said. "You're just going to have to pay for it."
Trev McCuaig, manager of Dissmore's IGA in Pullman, said the store is making strides to reduce plastic waste. Customers who want plastic bags get them, but there are other options. Inexpensive cloth bags are sold at the register, and many customers are eager to pick one up.
"Since we brought those in ... I think we've sold 700 to 800," he said. "I think there are a lot more people that are conscientious."
The store also uses recycled bags when they're offered by the supplier, and all plastic waste generated at the store is baled and sent to a recycling company in Spokane. McCuaig said the store also plans to set up a plastic bag recycling bin.
"There are things that we do at store-level to try to help out," he said.
Siler said the profits from bag fees could go to the Pullman Food Bank, which relies on the bags to package foods for area families. She suggests the money could fund an alternative method for the food bank to distribute food, or go to community beautification efforts.
City Supervisor John Sherman said the city frequently gets proposals and suggestions for change. They are forwarded to the City Council which ultimately decides whether the issue is discussed further.
Sherman said Councilman Bill Paul recently expressed interest in discussing the plastic bag fee proposal publicly, and the topic is scheduled for the council's Aug. 26 meeting. The delay is intended to allow interested residents who may be out of town for the summer to participate in the conversation.