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Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Mixed signals on our bagless future

By From page A2 | June 29, 2014

As we move ever closer to our toughest-in-the-nation plastic bag ban (if we’re not No. 1, why do it?), the city is sending out conflicting messages in an apparent attempt to “educate” the unwashed masses of this town.

Just last Friday, as an “Environmental update,” The Enterprise ran a city of Davis communiqué under the headline “Be prepared to pay for carryout bags.”

It explained that even restaurants are not exempt from the July 1 start date for the ordinance, although “plastic bags can still be provided for soups and other foods that may spill or drip.”

I’m not sure where spaghetti and meatballs fits into this take-out scenario, but I can see a confrontation brewing when an unsuspecting Davis diner encounters an officer from the DPBBFP (Davis Plastic Bag Ban Food Police) as the diner heads home from his favorite downtown restaurant.

“What’s in the bag, sir?”

“Spaghetti and meatballs.”

“That requires a paper bag, sir. It’s right here in Section 22, Item 4-b. I’m going to have to write you up.”

“But my order of spaghetti and meatballs was especially spilly and drippy. According to Section 11, Item 12-a, I’m entitled to a plastic bag free of charge.”

“No, this restaurant’s menu says the sauce on their spaghetti and meatballs is “extra thick,” which means it’s not considered spilly or drippy under Exception 16-z. Not only am I required to give you a ticket, I must confiscate your food as a public health hazard. Please place your hands behind your back.”

“But, but …”

“Do I need to call for backup?”

In addition to last Friday’s Enterprise article, I have in front of me an email distributed several months ago by someone billed as the “City of Davis Public Works Conservation Coordinator.” I realize that’s a lot of information to fit on a business card, but that’s what the email says, so that’s what I’m going with.

Because I do not enjoy Most Favored Nation status with the city of Davis, I did not personally receive this particular email, but it was forwarded to me by a member of my vast network of spies who have infiltrated the very highest levels of city government.

It appears to have been forwarded from something called the “City of Davis Toad Hollow Dog Park Email List Subscription,” which is clearly code for something else, given that the Most Relevant City in America would never have an email list with such a silly name.

“Please consider the environment before printing this email,” it asks politely, so I stepped outside, gazed at the clear blue sky, then came back inside and printed it. Still, there’s little question that printing this simple email caused the world’s entire population of polar bears to migrate another mile south.

“As you may already have heard,” the email begins, “in November 2013, the Davis City Council passed Ordinance #2422, the Single-Use Carryout Bags Ordinance, to reduce the distribution of single-use carryout bags and promote the use of reusable bags at all retail stores, restaurants and take-out food establishments in Davis.”

No more bagging your baguette, Mrs. Robinson.

“On and after July 1, 2014 single-use plastic carryout bags cannot be distributed to customers at retail stores and restaurants.”

I think you already said that. And we get your message loud and clear. Untold sea birds are flying in circles around Davis at this very moment because their heads are stuck inside Walmart bags and that’s bad for our image, even if Dixon and Woodland are the main culprits here.

We all understand that plastic bags are bad for people and dogs and cats and ocean-going mammals and pretty much the entire world.

They contribute to global warming, crop failure, the decline of the American family, cracked pavement on Covell Boulevard and the Broncos’ inability to win the Super Bowl. They are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.

Of course, “Non-profit reuse stores are exempt from the ordinance, as are customers paying with WIC, SNAP or CalFresh food stamps,” since studies show that whales, dolphins, seagulls and those cute-as-a-bunny river otters specifically eschew, rather than chew, plastic bags from these sources.

To be clear, I believe the WIC, SNAP and CalFresh folks — plus anyone shopping with money borrowed from Uncle Harry — are exempt only from having to pay a dime for a paper bag, not from the entire ordinance altogether.

All of which makes the next sentence in this top-secret Toad Hollow Dog Park communiqué such a complete head-scratcher.

“Since plastic bags will be harder to come by starting in July, you may want to start saving your bread bags, produce bags, sandwich bags, and all other plastic bags for doggie duty!”

All other plastic bags? Now wait a minute. I thought we were trying to eliminate plastic bags, not hoard them.

In other words, this city official seems to be saying that even though Davis is banning plastic bags as the malevolent items that they are, we realize that dog owners in this town desperately need plastic bags so they don’t have to handle their canines’ end product with their bare hands.

So it turns out plastic bags are a bit of a necessity after all.

Maybe it’s time to revisit this ordinance in the next 48 hours and add one more blanket exception for yet another class of beleaguered Davisites: dog owners.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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