Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Pullman council considering plastic bag fee"

Some quick observations from last night's plastic bag tax public hearing:

  • The total number of signatures on the Pullman Consumers for Choice petition was 132.

  • A total of four council members spoke on the plastic bag tax last night. Bill Paul felt that the debate had been healthy. Ann Heath said the science on plastic bags was sketchy and didn't think government was the answer to every perceived problem. Keith Bloom agreed with the need for education on the issue but didn't think we needed to harm Pullman business with a new tax. Nathan Weller believed incentives for using reusable bags would be better than a tax.

  • Based on comments made by Mayor Johnson, there were (predictably) many people from Moscow in attendance. Keith Bloom had the perfect retort. He read from the Moscow Food Co-Op's latest newsletter, in which the Co-Op heartily denounces the evils of plastic bags, but then states the Co-Op is not ready to start charging for them or stop using them. Nothing like leading by example.

  • The Huskies have a better chance of being in Pasadena on New Year's Day than the plastic bag tax has of being in place in Pullman on New Year's Day.

  • Dramatic visual aids, like a big ball of plastic bags, are no substitute for hard science and facts.

  • Poor Ponce de Leon. He thought the secret to immortality was a fountain. Turns out it is a plastic bag.

  • Speaking of silliness, I have some advice for you "progressives" if you actually want to get things done:
  • Try showing a little respect and tact. When your side spoke, we listened quietly and didn't interrupt your little "spontaneous" applause session. However, when I was speaking, there was mumbled snide disapprobation from the audience throughout. Most people in attendance were well over 40. You'd think those people wouldn't act like 3rd graders giggling at an assembly. And the highlight of the night was Chris Lupke's dramatic dress-swishing, heel-clicking exit as Councilmember Ann Heath was expressing her disagreement with the proposed bag tax. Lu Laoshi sighed so loud, the whole room heard it. Classy.

  • For God's sake, get out more. Interact with people that have opposing viewpoints. Mix with the unwashed masses. An older lady wanted to speak with me afterward and just COULDN'T understand where I was coming from. She couldn't have been more flummoxed if I had been speaking Klingon. Michael's "Pauline Kael" column was right on the money. Living in echo chambers is not conducive to public debate. Try to understand your opponents. Validate their arguments. One thing I was always proud of with the Wal-Mart battle was that I felt I could argue both sides equally as well (though not equally factually.)
  • From KXLY in Spokane:
    PULLMAN -- Many shoppers take free grocery bags for granted, but by January, each plastic bag could cost Pullman shoppers $.20 each, if one local group gets its way.

    Tuesday night, both sides made their arguments in front of Pullman's city council. One side says recycling doesn't work, and people won't respond unless they are charged. The other side argues a fee will only encourage shoppers to leave town and find less expensive groceries elsewhere.

    A chair reserved in the back for a twenty five pound ball of plastic bags was the first indicator of what most people came to talk about at the packed city council meeting. Both sides were allotted 15 minutes to share their opinions. Those with a group called Bring Your Own Bag, Pullman spoke up sharing how other cities including Seattle have implemented fees to reduce the negative environmental impact of plastic bags.

    "The plastic bag that you got today at a grocery store is going to be on the planet longer than you are," bag fee supporter Elizabeth Siler said. "That's a kind of immortality that's kind of scary when you think about it."

    On the other side, a group called Pullman Consumers for Choice argued that people should be educated, and encouraged to recycle before they are punished with fees.

    "Kind of a coercive measure, and I think it's not appropriate for government to do that," bag fee opponent Tony Forbes said. "I think it should be the people that make choices about environment."

    No decision was made by city council, but at least two council members spoke up after the discussion saying they would favor more of an educational approach than a fee based approach to reducing the use of plastic bags. A decision will be made later this fall.

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