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Reusable bags debate must be civil

Posted: September 14, 2011 - 12:01am

As a moderate politician, I would bend over backward not to be labeled any kind of environmentalist. But I carry reusable bags into the store every time I go shopping. It was a real hassle at first. I must be a slow learner because it has taken months for me to get to the place where I remember. But I feel I must be responsible for the life cycle costs of my own consumerism, and it makes me feel good to know that I am not encouraging the production of one unnecessary plastic bag that might harm our ecosystem or find its way into our food chain.

The plastic bag ordinance that will appear on the Oct. 4 ballot is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I can name at least four things I would change about it if I had been the author. That is not the fault of the framers. Those were compromises offered by Assembly Member Bob Doll and City Attorney John Hartle, hotly debated and reluctantly accepted, if my source is accurate. It may not be perfect, but the important thing is that this process gives Juneauites the opportunity to decide for themselves by majority vote whether they want a little help, a little incentive, to remember to bring that reusable bag into the store with them.

I love my community and I love to live in a clean, beautiful place. I think we all do. I don’t think any of us enjoys driving by Lemon Creek and seeing plastic bags hung up in the limbs of the trees near the landfill.

In the long run, whether this bag ordinance is successful is not nearly as important as how we interact with each other in the debate. That goes for the bag ordinance, the AJ Mine, the cruise ship docks, the Road, the North Douglas Crossing … and the list goes on. We are a diverse people with broad skills, expertise, and interests. We need to treat each other respectfully to encourage participation so we can take advantage of every idea to help us craft the Great Compromises that will bring us into a more beautiful future.

It matters very little whether we have a 15-cent bag fee when all is said and done if we alienate our neighbors one from the other in the process and set the stage for further separation on the next issue down the road. Ugly or beautiful … it’s up to every person with a keyboard or a pen. I choose civility.

Ruth Danner

City Assembly Member

Juneau

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