Wednesday, May 8, 2013
“Tough decision” ahead for proposed plastic-bag ban in Dallas
Austin's single-use bag ban went into effect March 1; Dallas still has research to do.
DALLAS While I had council member Dwaine Caraway on the phone Tuesday night to talk about that Love Field advertising proposal that would highlight southern Dallas businesses, I asked him about another pet project: that proposed ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags, which was presented to the council in April after he teased it in March.
“It’s in motion,” says the council member, who said he expects it will be presented to council committees before the city council goes on its summer break. “I am working extremely hard on it. If we don’t address it now, every drain will be clogged, and every tree will look like a Christmas tree filled with plastic bags, and then we’ll debater who’s gonna climb up there and get them out.”
In an interview Wednesday morning Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said she expects to present the ordinance to two council committees — Quality of Life and Transportation and Environment — some time next month. She expects it will be a “tough discussion,” in part because Dallas has considered the bag ban in the past only to see it get no further than the horseshoe at city hall.
“I am pleased that Mr. Caraway took this up and has shown a strong interest” in a single-use plastic-bag ban, says Suhm. “And I am excited this is something the council will have a chance to discuss. But it’s a hard discussion to have. We’re also looking at the bigger picture by studying garbage. As we look around the country and see what experience cities have had with other bans, we’re also studying the types of garbage and the impact on the communities.”
The city will discuss the ordinance at the very same time the state Legislature is considering a bill filed by Muenster Republican Drew Springer. In March, the state representative proposed his own ban on bag bans — the so-called Shopping Bag Freedom Act, which says “a local government may not enforce any ordinance or regulation … that prohibits or restricts a business … from providing to a customer at the point of sale a bag, package or other container made from any material.”
Springer’s bill is aimed squarely as Austin’s single-use bag ban, which went into effect March 1. As we noted last month, some Central Texas politicians aren’t terribly keen on a North Texas pol meddling in their business. Democratic Rep. Dawnna Dukes told our Karen Brooks Harper that “sponsoring such measures is contradictory to the universal principle of his party of local control.”
As Dallas has discovered, and as many other cities are finding out, bag bans are incredibly contentious: The city council in San Clemente, California, just voted against such a ban, with one council member insisting that “an outright ban says to our community that you don’t obviously understand the issue well enough, so we’re going to remove that choice from you.” And in Portland, Maine, some council members can’t agree on the language of a proposed ordinance that would also ban Styrofoam but cut exempt retailers who collect and recycle polystyrene containers.
Suhm says she’s taking all of this into consideration before going to the council in June.
“We’re going to benefit by other people’s experience and see what worked and what didn’t,” she says. “There are other options beside banning the bag, which may help. There’s the fee if you want to use the bag, for instance. And one of the challenges of banning the bags is many grocery stores have recycling programs, which I commend them for. It’s wonderful having a place to bring back the bag. And it’s pretty impressive. So there are a lot of angles from which to look at this, and I am delighted we’re going to discuss it. And it will be a tough discussion.”
Below is the ordinance Caraway distributed to council members last month. And you’ll note, the way it’s written now bans all “single-use carryout bags,” without specific mention of paper versus plastic versus, say, canvas. Those changes will be made before it goes to those committees in June.
Plastic Bag Ordinance Draft by cityhallblog
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