I ‘m here to respond to comments and personal attacks directed at me and my friend Linda Woods at the February 20th Waterville City Council meeting by Mr. Dan Libby about our community effort to ban plastic shopping bags at stores that are 10,000 square feet or larger. I watched the video recording of his comments and was shocked and appalled to be personally attacked by someone who I have never met or spoken with.
First, I would like to thank Mr. Libby for calling attention to our campaign website, www.bringyourownbag.info. It is a great place to learn more about our local community effort.
Second, In Mr. Libby’s verbose attacks on Linda, myself, and our local effort, he asked who the people were who serve on our committee. To answer his question, we are all Waterville residents. We are your neighbors, Mr. Libby, and we all want to reduce plastic bag pollution in our community.
Third, Mr. Libby claimed that this ordinance represents government thinking for us, rather than us thinking for ourselves. In fact, The opposite is true. This is a community led effort, not a government led effort. We see a problem in our society with a simple solution, and we are dedicated to fixing it. A dozen towns in Maine have solved it. Why not Waterville? We are your neighbors who care about our community and want to see changes. We have monthly meetings, we are speaking at local churches and community meetings to raise awareness. We are attending local neighborhood association meetings to get feedback and input to the ordinance. This does not sound like big government to me.
Fourth, Mr. Libby claimed this was an attack on his civil liberties. One of our guaranteed civil liberties as Americans under the First Amendment is freedom to petition the government. That is what we are doing. We are exercising our right to petition the city government. The City of Waterville has, by my count on the website, 28 ordinances on the books including a ban on smoking in certain places in the city, a marijuana ordinance, a fireworks ordinance, a bicycle ordinance, and an adult business ordinance to name a few. Do these infringe on your civil liberties, Mr. Libby?
Fifth, our ordinance does not “mandate” what type of bag a Waterville shopper can use at the store, as Mr. Libby clams. Under our ordinance, which is still in draft form, shoppers can bring any bag they want to to the store with them for shopping – a reusable bag, a paper bag, heck a plastic bag from a previous trip if they want to. You just have to bring it with you to the store. If you forget your bags, which we all do once in a while, paper bags will still be available at check out. That does not sound like a mandate to me.
Sixth, I do not question anyone’s ability to make smart decisions for themselves, as Mr. Libby suggested. However, education campaigns over the year to remind customers to “bring their own bags” have failed miserably. In November of 2009, the Maine Merchants Association launched the “Got Your Bags, Maine?” initiative to encourage Mainers to bring their reusable bags to the store. You can still see their signs on the shopping cart corals in the Hannaford and Shaws parking lots. They set a goal of reducing paper and plastic bag distribution by 33% among participating retailers by 2013. It failed miserably.
In closing, I was on vacation in Austin, Texas on February 20 when Mr. Libby made his statements and personal attacks on Linda and I. Austin is the fastest growing city in America. It is also the the first city in Texas to ban plastic shopping bags at checkout throughout the city in March of 2013 by a unanimous vote of their city council. Somehow, my wife and I managed to have a great vacation in Austin despite our lack of plastic shopping bags.
California and Hawaii have banned plastic bags throughout their states, Chicago, Seattle, and Cambridge, Mass have banned them, 7 towns in Maine have banned them. Why not Waterville?
We are putting the finishing touches on our proposed ordinance and I will be presenting it to you for consideration at an upcoming Waterville City Council meeting this spring. After a review by the city solicitor and two readings, you can either pass the ordinance outright and put it in to law or put it on the ballot for voters to decide in November. I appreciate your time and attention to this issue, and the opportunity to defend myself and my friends here tonight. Thank you.