Lacey should vote to join ban on plastic bags

The OlympianJanuary 23, 2014 

Walking past a large stack of plastic film August 8th at their Hogum Bay Rd. facility LeMay Inc. district manager Jeff Harwood points out the specific type of film material the company stopped accepting from its commercial customers in October.

STEVE BLOOM; STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There is some discouraging news from the city councils in Tumwater and Lacey. Neither city has yet found the leadership necessary to enact ordinances to benefit the common good.

Lacey remains stuck on whether to join other Thurston County cities in a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags, and takes a crucial vote Thursday. Meanwhile, Tumwater plans to revisit a ban on fireworks within its city limits that would bring the city into line with Lacey and Olympia.

Both cities are considering public votes, despite separate surveys that show the public would support both bans.

Tumwater has been glaringly out of step with other jurisdictions on the fireworks issue. Lacey banned fireworks in 2007 and a ban in the city of Olympia went into effect last year.

The city is also out of step with its residents. According to a 2012 survey it conducted on the issue, 54.5 percent of a small sampling favored a ban.

It is difficult to justify the continued use of legal fireworks — let alone illegal ones — in urban areas such as Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater. The Department of Ecology has warned people that breathing the fine particles in fireworks smoke can create or add to health problems.

Tumwater firefighters suspect illegal fireworks in two calls last July, and the city’s number of 911 annual July complaints is trending up.

City Council member Joan Cathey, who favors a ban, asks the right question: “I don’t know what we’re gaining by not doing it.”

But by continuing to allow fireworks, even during a shortened time period, Tumwater creates confusion for residents and law enforcement where city boundaries split neighborhoods.

Tumwater should not hesitate and pass an ordinance now to ban the sale and discharge of personal fireworks within city limits. By state law, it would not go into effect until 2015.

Likewise, the city of Lacey should adopt Thurston County’s common ordinance for banning the flimsy plastic bags during its meeting Thursday.

Despite a public survey with nearly 1,300 responses that showed a 51.59 percent majority favored a ban, some council members still sit on the proverbial fence. They are pushing for a public vote that will waste taxpayer dollars to probably get the same divided result.

But the council regularly makes decisions on issues that more or less divide the city’s electorate. It’s called leadership.

Or, as Councilman Jeff Gadman put it, “It’s time for us to lead, which we were elected to do, and take action on this.” Mayor Andy Ryder agreed, saying, “It’s time for the council to take a position this.”

Indeed. It’s almost past time. Putting a decision off Thursday, or at least any later than the end of this month, could compromise the extensive countywide education outreach programs needed before the common July 1, 2014, start date.

It’s time for the Tumwater and Lacey city councils to step up on these two important issues. Lacey can get things started by voting to join the plastic bag ban Thursday.

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