The Lacey City Council on Thursday night weighed the results of a public outreach campaign tied to a proposed plastic bag ban, and the subsequent discussion revealed a divided council: Some want the issue to go to a vote of the people, while others said it is time the council showed some leadership and voted on the issue themselves.
Thursday’s meeting was a council work session, but the council is set to consider the proposed ban of single-use plastic bags during a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 23.
Seeking guidance on the issue from residents and businesses, the city coordinated an outreach campaign last year, including an open house, notifying the local Chamber of Commerce and homeowner associations.
In addition, comment cards were mailed to 15,000 utility customers within the city limits. That data was compiled and presented to the council on Thursday, showing the city received 1,276 responses. More than 50 percent – 51.49 percent – are in favor of the ban, while 44.44 percent are against it, with 4.08 percent still undecided.
Those in favor of the ban said it was the right thing to do for the environment, while those against it argued that single-use bags are not that at all, but are reused for many purposes.
Council members interpreted the data differently: Some said the results were too close and should go to a vote of the people, while others saw a majority in favor of a ban.
Council members Virgil Clarkson, Jason Hearn and Lenny Greenstein leaned in favor of putting it to a vote of the people, while the other members — Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt, Jeff Gadman, Michael Steadman and Mayor Andy Ryder — said the council should take action themselves.
Here are some of their comments:
Lenny Greenstein: “There’s really no reason for the council to take action on this because there’s no clear direction on what the public wants us to do.” He later added: “The public is divided enough that it’s only right to put it on the ballot.”
Jason Hearn: “It’s a dangerous precedent for a council of seven to ban a legal product on its citizens without their direct input.”
Jeff Gadman: “It’s time for us to lead, which we were elected to do, and take action on this.”
Andy Ryder: “It’s time for the council to take a position on this.”
If the bag ban goes to a vote of the people, it is estimated that it will cost the city $10,000 to get it on the ballot for the August primary.