Online petition to ban bags gaining attention

OCEANSIDE — An online petition for a plastic bag ban in Oceanside has gained a lot of attention, but Councilmen Jerry Kern and Jack Feller said it is a “non-issue.”Feller said 75 percent of the 480-plus petition signatures that have been collected to date are from people who live outside of Oceanside.

“I’m not interested in it,” Feller said. “There are enough real problems to take care of, it’s a non-issue.”

Kern said he also dismisses the petition and added that there are a lot of other things to worry about.

“I’m not giving it much credence,” Kern said. “It’s not much effort on anyone’s part. I wouldn’t support the ban.”

The petition posted by Oceanside resident Belinda Martinez-Canez through the The Change.org website asks the city to ban plastic bags. It points out that greenhouse gas emissions are created when the bags are made and notes that plastic bags often make their way into our waterways and oceans endangering wildlife.

The petition states, “Up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die each year as a result of plastic debris” and “we are collectively using about 12 million barrels of oil each year to produce plastic bags.”

Both councilmen said there are some flaws with the global warning theory that fuels environmental efforts.

“I don’t subscribe to global warming as it’s packaged,” Feller said. “It could turn to global cooling in another 10 years. It’s a cycle we’ve gone through for years, hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Feller said he would rather see efforts put into recycling waste and using more clean nuclear energy.

“I’m a true believer in nuclear energy,” Feller said. “It’s the cleanest thing burning right now.”

Kern also questioned environmentalists’ alarm about global warming.

“They are connecting these dots that may not be there,” Kern said. “Me driving home today is causing global warming to some effect. Cows cause global warming.”

“The single factor for global warming is climate change,” he added. “There are other issues.”

Kern said a plastic bag ban creates its own set of problems such as more trees being cut down to produce paper bags, the spread of bacteria by using reusable bags, and the imposition of paying an extra fee to use a plastic bag.

“It’s disproportionately harder on poor people who can’t afford to pay 5 or10 cents for a plastic bag on top of their grocery bill,” Kern said. “It’s fine that people have the choice to have plastic, paper or use their own. They have the freedom to choose. They can lead by example. It’s their choice.”

The process for the city to proceed with a ban on plastic bags would be for a council member or city staff to bring the item forward. Kern and Feller said they do not know who would be moved to do that.

“No one has personally come up to ask me about a plastic bag ban,” Kern said.

Mayor Jim Wood has been quoted by the Union Tribune as saying he would support the ban but “it would be a waste of time to even bring it up.”

Solana Beach passed a ban on plastic bags in May 2012. Its ordinance states that retailers cannot pass out single-use bags. Stores are encouraged to provide an incentive to shoppers who use reusable bags and can charge 10 cents for distributed paper bags. Low-income shoppers who participate in California food assistance programs would be exempt from bag charges. Fines and imprisonment can penalize retailers who do not follow the ordinance.

The ban was led by the citizen volunteer Clean and Green Committee, and recommended to council by the City Council Environmental Sustainability Ad-Hoc Committee comprised of Councilwoman Lesa Heebner and former Councilman Dave Roberts. Solana Beach City Council passed the ban in a unanimous vote.

Solana Beach reviewed the plastic bag ban in March and decided to keep the ban “as is.”

The review was prompted by a few public requests to reconsider the ban.

The vote to keep the ban passed in a 4-1 vote, in which Councilman Thomas Campbell voted no.

“It is too early to measure the effectiveness of the ordinance,” Dan King, Solana Beach senior management analyst, said. “The city will most likely analyze data after a full year has passed to gauge the reduction in both plastic and paper bags distributed. The goal of the ordinance is to switch behavior to the use of reusable bags and away from both plastic and paper.”

King added that the city received letters supporting the bag ban from the California Grocers Association, California Retailers Association, Vons and CVS stores, which comprise the major commercial businesses in the city.

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