Friday, August 29, 2014

Bob Dunning: On bags, tickets and oblivious cyclists


From page A2 | July 07, 2013 |

My friend Peter, apparently reacting to that recent front-page headline in this very newspaper declaring that the “Council looks at broader bag ban,” has just about had enough.

But before we get to Peter and his concerns, a little background is in order.

Obviously, judging from the headline above, it seems our hyper-active council wishes not only to ban plastic bags, paper bags, bag ladies and baguettes, but “broader” bags as well. Not sure how they’re defining a “broad” bag, but I’m sure they’ll appoint some sort of Bag Advisory Group (BAG) to study the issue and come up with several recommendations.

Initially, we heard the council was willing to entertain a plastic bag ban for major retailers with gross sales above a certain amount. Now we’re hearing they want to ban any bag that moves at any establishment whatsoever, regardless of size or sales.

According to Tom Sakash’s superb front-pager, “The council had the opportunity to tell staff that it is ready to move forward with implementing an ordinance that would exile about 90 percent of plastic bags from the city.”

Exile? Are we going to send them all to Woodland?

“The ordinance the city’s Natural Resources Commission had drawn up essentially required only grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies to discontinue offering the bags,” Sakash notes, even as we can tell that sentence will be followed by a great, big “but.”

Adds Sakash, “But Mayor Joe Krovoza and Councilman Brett Lee seemed to want to extend the ban to all businesses, as both didn’t believe it would be equitable to force only part of the business community to comply.”

They’re right. If plastic bags are bad, they’re bad. Period. It doesn’t really matter how big the retailer using them happens to be. To be fair, you have to ban all of them.

Of course, this presumes you think any bags at all need to be banned in the first place.

Said Brett Lee: “I think this is sort of misnamed as this plastic bag ban. It’s a plastic bag ban if you happen to be a supermarket, drug store or liquor store. There’s a whole group of businesses which are not touched by this approach. Are plastic bags bad? Or are they only bad if they come from a supermarket?”

Yep, Brett framed the issue and then nailed it.

Krovoza chimed in that his “biggest problem” is “just the inequity of saying we’re going to do a ban. If you want consistency and you want fairness and you want to treat all businesses equally, then that’s what you do, as opposed to circumscribing who it applies to and who it doesn’t apply to.”

Or maybe you solve the fairness problem by banning nothing at all and let the good citizens of Davis use common sense as to what they bag and what they don’t.

But back to Peter, who seems to have had enough of this debate.

Looking down the road to one future day in our fair city, Peter writes: “Coming home from a long day of work, I opt for take-out from my favorite Thai restaurant.”

Fair enough, but we don’t need a name, Peter. Given that there are 328 Thai restaurants on G Street alone, we can all let our imaginations run wild.

Adds Peter: “Declining to pay for parking at the newly installed meters, I miraculously find a spot blocks away (thanks to the Patron Saint of Parking) and note it is downgraded to only 90 minutes. I join a friend for a drink and note with resentment that my 90-minute parking is almost over.

“My now-rushed food order is delivered in a paper bag, for which I must pay (doesn’t everyone know how much water and energy goes into making paper?). Hurrying back to my car, I find the promptly delivered city parking ticket adorning my windshield, and then — while crawling down the recently ‘skinnied’ Fifth Street — jam my brakes to avoid an oblivious bicyclist.”

Peter, Peter, Peter. The term “oblivious bicyclist” is redundant in this town.

“The garlic sauce from my order oozes through the paper bag, creating artistic patterns on my car seat. How much more hostile can they make downtown Davis for us, or anyone?”

But wait, Peter isn’t through with us.

“What about all those plastic bags that wrap our newspapers on rainy days? Will we get a nice paper bag instead to protect our papers?”

The city can’t touch our product, Peter. The First Amendment and freedom of the press will survive any attempt to strip us of our plastic bag protection.

Trust me on this.

— Reach Bob Dunning at



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