Victorious Huntington Beach Patriots want their Plastic Bags Back – or something (???)


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Michael Posey – Plastic Bag Activist – Connie Boardman

Former Huntington Beach Mayor and environmentalist Connie Boardman sent out this e-mail yesterday:

Hello My Friends, Councilman Posey has an agenda item to repeal the reusable bag ordinance on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting. I have copied the text below. I wanted to make sure you knew this was happening. I find it very sad that his first agenda item is designed to set the city backward environmentally rather than move the city forward.

The item states the State’s bag ordinance is on hold as enough signatures have been collected to put this issue before the voters of the State in 2016. I don’t think those signatures have been verified yet, but even if that is the case – so what? Why repeal our ordinance now? Polling has shown that state wide the reusable bag ordinance will most likely pass. It is popular even in cities that do not currently have their own ordinance. 

Posey tries to make the argument below that somehow decreasing the use of plastic bags is actually bad for the environment because paper bag production causes greenhouse gas emissions. The manufacturing and transport of paper bags does generate greenhouse gases, and that is why the ordinance includes a .10 fee for paper bags so consumers will be encouraged to bring their own bags. 

I hope we can all agree that less plastic in our ocean is a worthy goal and making plastic bags less available helps moves us in that direction. The council’s email address is city.council@surfcity-hb.org. Why not drop them a short email? The Surfrider Foundation is mobilizing over the issue, as they decide what course of action to take I will let you all know.

Connie

Vern here. We will print Councilman Posey’s motion and arguments below, but first I want to note several things:

1. Plastic Bags and last November’s Election

When I first became aware last April that there was a movement in Huntington Beach furious at the reusable bag ordinance, determined to get their single-use plastic bags back and to take electoral revenge on the councilpeople responsible, I laughed and made fun of them.  It didn’t seem like there could be TOO many people upset about it – they were unable to get enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot, and according to Councilman Joe Shaw, e-mails had been coming in 3 out of 4 in support of the ban.  After all, as Joe reminded us in the Liberal OC the other day, the issue had been debated in council over 17 times, and voted on a dozen times.  I even rashly passed on Joe’s challenge, “If people really want their plastic bags back, they can just vote me and Connie out in November and save the money on an initiative!” – a quote the OC GOP gleefully recycled in their attack mailers against the two last November.

Well, as it turned out, I shouldn’t-a laughed so hard:  Joe and Connie came in 7th and 5th in the election, and the anti-ban movement, centered around the Huntington Beach Community Forum (HBCF) and rallied tirelessly by Independent columnist Chris Epting, obviously had a lot to do with it.  (Although perhaps not as much as they think – the environmentalist majority had made the perfect storm of wealthy powerful enemies, getting piled on by Poseidon, mobile home park owners, developers, the HB Chamber, labor unions, and the OC GOP.  In fact the top three council vote-getters were not the top choices of HBCF members, but the top choices of the special interests I just listed.)

Posey himself, who came in second, was a cipher to most of HB – where did this fellow come from, what did he stand for, and how did he get so many votes?  Barbara Delgleize (top vote-getter) had run several times, was a planning commissioner, and a well-known and likable realtor.  Third-place Billy O’Connell, who had also run before, had been around town for several years telling everybody whatever they wanted to hear.  Even fourth-place Erik Peterson was a planning commissioner who’d run once before.   But Posey got the endorsements and money from ALL the special interests I listed above – EXCEPT for the unions – and renouncing union support (unlike Delgleize and O’Connell) allowed him to snag the OC GOP endorsement (unlike ex-Republican O’Connell or the socially liberal Delgleize.)  And that was the winning ticket for this unknown.  And opposition to plastic bag bans has come to be an unquestionable tenet of the OC GOP catechism.

2.  What Do They Want Exactly?

It’s a little confusing, listening to the ban’s opponents.  Almost none of them claim that plastic bag pollution is not a problem, and almost all of them claim to bring their own re-usable bags.  ALL of the opponents (as well as some of us supporters) have a big problem with the mandated minimum ten-cent charge for paper bags;  I understood that to be a deal the council worked out with stores so that they wouldn’t oppose the ban (what Epting calls a “bribe”);  but Connie admitted above that it was also a way to “encourage” shoppers to bring their own re-usable bags – the sort of “social engineering” that conservative voters really resent.

But bigger than that, you hear populist resentment about government “telling us what to do,” and “the people should decide for themselves.”   And that gets confusing because it could mean one of two things:  1) Let US decide if we want there to be a ban or not;  we MIGHT say yes but it should be OUR call;  OR 2) Of course there shouldn’t be a ban, even if the people do vote on it:  Every free citizen should be able to choose, every day and every shopping trip, if they are going to use single-use plastic bags or not, and be inherently trusted to dispose of them properly.  (And presumably, look askance with disapproval and dismay at the many, many careless people who’ll continue to just let them fly off into the brisk beach wind.)

But as Patrick Mahoney pointed out in a recent mammoth HBOpen Thread, Councilman Posey’s arguments below go beyond any of that, attempting to cast doubt on the very proposition that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment – arguments that were nakedly borrowed from the aggrieved plastics industry who have (probably) managed to put the statewide ban on hold till Nov. 2016.

Taken recently at a pond by the wetlands – a year ago it was much worse. (Pic Delia Park)

One of the bogus arguments being that “no verifiable proof that our local bag ban has done anything to reduce locally sourced and discarded single-use plastic bags” – a line Epting has been spouting all year.  True, the council majority didn’t opt to spend thousands of dollars on studies proving the commonsense proposition that less plastic bags available in a wide swath near the beach would result in notably less plastic bags ON the beach – but that’s what all regular beach-cleanup attendees have consistently reported.  And other larger cities with bans, who can afford such studies, confirm its efficacy.

3.  How would this reversal actually shake out?

Barring an act of God, Huntington Beach’s bag ban will be reversed tomorrow night (Tuesday night;  hat-tip MLK; see Selma.)  Incumbent Dave Sullivan was already an outspoken opponent;  the four new members rightly feel that they owe their seats in good part to their opposition;  the only suspense will be whether moderate environmentalist Jim Katapodis sticks to what he knows is right or has been shaken enough by the election results to make it a 6-1 vote rather than a 5-2.  But, a lot of us have been thinking, what will the real effects of this reversal be?

Stores don’t NEED to go back to giving out free plastic bags if they don’t want to.  They also don’t NEED to stop charging for paper bags if they don’t want to.  Polling shows that the statewide ban will PROBABLY be upheld by a vote of the people in Nov. 2016;  and businesspeople don’t like to have to change their practices back and forth repeatedly.  The HB Chamber of Commerce, so often the root of all evil, recently published a poll of its members, a majority of whom responded that they had no problem with the ban.  I predict a crazy patchwork of reactions from the various businesses across town, some wanting to offer their customers convenience and others wanting to appeal to their environmental sensibilities.

4.  We Will Do STYROFOAM Differently!

Mess at the wetlands the other day. Pic Delia Park.

On my HBOpen Community Forum, which has become a virtual factory of constructive ideas for Surf City, we recently spoke of the plague of styrofoam on the beach, another non-biodegradable hazard to our ocean and marine life, an evil Monsanto concoction that breaks into tiny pieces and NEVER DIES, and which has long been the most common litter we see on our shores.  And knee-jerk environmentalist liberals that most of us are, we started to say “Let’s ban that too!” – something the previous council almost did until Katapodis backed off.

But then one of us – me, actually – said something along the lines of, “Come on, let’s be realistic.  We all want to see a lot less styrofoam on the beach.  But the council we have now ain’t banning anything, and it’s obvious that a huge chunk of HB voters are allergic to bans.  Let’s do this a different way:  Let’s pick one restaurant or store at a time, starting from the closest to the Pier, let them know what the alternatives are to styrofoam cups and take-out containers, and each time we get one of them to voluntarily switch we’ll make a special presentation of an award to that restaurant, at a televised Council meeting!”  And it really seemed like everyone who heard that idea – left to right, environmentalist to libertarian, thought it was pretty damn groovy.

So we’re going to do that.  Keep your eyes on this blog for more details of the “Huntington Beach No-Styrofoam Challenge!”  We already know who the first award winners are going to be, two establishments who switched to biodegradable food packaging long ago without having to have their arms twitsed:  “Mama’s on 39” at Beach and Atlanta, and Slapfish at Newland Center (Beach and Adams.)

OK then, Heeere’s Councilman Posey!

STATEMENT OF ISSUE:

In 2013, the City of Huntington Beach adopted a Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance (the “Ordinance”). It was anticipated that by prohibiting single-use plastic carryout bags and creating a mandatory ten-cent charge for paper bags, the Ordinance would reduce the number of single- use bags consumed within the City. However, since the adoption of the Ordinance, we have not seen any evidence as to the effectiveness of the bag ban.

The intention of the bag ban was to reduce litter and improve the environment. We have no verifiable proof that our local bag ban has done anything to reduce locally sourced and discarded single-use plastic bags. Littering of any kind is unacceptable but we already have laws in place to address littering.

Map of the largest concentrations of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean – click for larger image.

Regarding environmental concerns, it can be argued that limiting the choice to paper and/or reusable bags has more impact on increasing our carbon footprint. In fact, producing paper vs. plastic produces 400% more emissions (paper production, shipment, bag manufacturing, shipping, storage and disposal) than plastic. See http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/paper-plasfic.htm for more info. The production of imported reusable bags also contributes (heavily) to carbon emissions through production and delivery. Reusable bags also consume more water for reuse and the proposed CA SB270 law will only allow retailers to sell “certified” bags.

Such reusable bag certification includes a bag tag with origin and contact info, weight carrying capacity, volume capacity, thickness requirement, material requirement, assembly requirement, and number of trips and distance traveled to calculate useful life cycle. It is highly likely that every reusable bag that each and everyone one of us is using are not certified.

There has been no hard evidence and no other way to accurately measure if the Ordinance is doing what it is supposed to do in Huntington Beach. All the while, City consumers are required to pay for new, bigger plastic bags, or buy a single, maybe dual, use ten-cent paper bag, or carry each individual item out of the store. This law is nothing more than government over- regulation that has caused Huntington Beach residents/consumers to be charged more for shopping in Huntington Beach while also driving shoppers to neighboring cities.

CCMI — Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance Page 2
January 13, 2015

I believe in protecting the environment, and I treasure the beach, ocean, air and environment. I drive a clean diesel-powered car and telecommute a few days per week. I am not necessarily an environmentalist but am steadfastly environmentally conscious. I also value freedom. However, litter from plastic bags is caused by misuse and not use, and I object to punishing everyone because some people choose to litter.

Existing state legislation, Senate Bill 270, would place a statewide ban on certain single use point- of-sale plastic bags. However, as of December 30, 2014, opponents of SB 270 collected over 800,000 signatures in support of a referendum, which, if the signatures are verified, will suspend the law and place it onto the November 2016 General Election Ballot. Thus, in November 2016, there may be a State law in effect that will make the Huntington Beach ordinance unnecessary.

I humbly ask for your support in repealing the City ordinance in its entirety and let the voices of the voters of Huntington Beach be heard alongside the voices of the voters of the State of California in deciding if single-use plastic bags ought or ought-not be banned.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Direct the City Manager and the City Attorney to take the necessary steps to repeal Huntington Beach Municipal Code Chapter 5.95 “Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance.” It is my understanding that repealing the ordinance may require additional environmental analysis, which could cost approximately $5,000 and take two to three months to complete.

In other words, Give Me Plastic Bags or Give Me DEATH!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.