Roving Reporter | "Rockport City Council Tables Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban Proposal" | Text and Photos by Karen Cline-Tardiff

With over 100 citizens in attendance last night, the Rockport City Council’s proposal to ban plastic single-use bags was ultimately tabled. In attendance were local citizens and visitors to the area, representatives from local businesses, the Manager of Wal-Mart, the Public Relations Representative from HEB Grocery, a representative from the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from "Skip The Plastic" organization.  Each of the 31 people who spoke to the council had a unique perspective on why the ban should or should not be enacted.

Some of the advocates for the ban on single-use plastic bags pointed to other communities where similar ordinances were enacted.  Ruth Davis, a frequent visitor to Hawaii, said “It has had zero effect on tourism. It’s easy and painless.”  Warren Hassinger stated “I came [to Rockport] from Austin and I can tell you it works.”  Speaking to the costs of enacting the plastic bag ban Steven Risinger took a long-term view. “This is not a matter of what it’s going to cost now, but what it’s going to cost future generations, our Earth.”  Debra Corpora, President of the Aransas Bird and Nature Club stated the members were long-term supporters of "Skip the Plastic" and were in favor of the proposed ban.

Regina Garcia, the Public Relations Representative for HEB, presented several statistics about the commitment of the local business to support recycling initiatives and awareness.  However, she stated “HEB does not support this ban. It should be encouraged but not mandatory.  We want our customers to have a choice.” The sentiment was echoed by Wal-Mart Manager Tammy Finstad, who also added she “was disappointed to find out from customers and not the City” about the proposed ban.  Kam Wagert pointed out the proposed ban “will affect all 24,000 citizens of this county and the tourists” due to the large retailers being situated in the city limits of Rockport. One of the most vocal advocates against the proposed ordinance was Phil Salemi, who spoke of the economic burdens of the proposed ordinance.  He also stated the council should be working on poverty and other issues, not wasting time on this ban.  Patricia Arnold spoke to the issues of public health as it relates to reusable bags.

The City Council then moved to a discussion of the issue.  Councilman Rusty Day stated he believed “This is part of a litter problem: a small step that is a small inconvenience that will vastly improve the community.”

Councilman JD Villa was concerned about the effect of the ban on low-income families. “Before we do a knee-jerk reaction we need to do a who, what, where, why and how. Once we answer those questions, we can come back to it [the proposed ordinance].”  Councilman Patrick Rios echoed that sentiment by saying “I heard a lot of things tonight I haven’t considered before. I need to get a couple more answers here.” Councilwoman Barbara Gurtner was also in agreement by addressing the audience. “A lot of things have come up that need consideration. You all have given me a lot more to think about,” she commented.

Mayor CJ Wax made a motion to table the proposal.  Councilman Villa seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

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