Cambrian: Opinion

Bags by any name — I feel the pain

I was compelled and prodded to respond to Mr. John Torchia’s Viewpoint opinion piece in The Cambrian Dec. 6. Mr. Torchia covered so many topics, from Prop. 13, to government spending, and taxes, all of which I could speak to with some common ground. But we were specifically named regarding the reusable grocery bag ordinance and all the misconceptions surrounding it.

I would hope in Cambria we could get a softer and more gentle viewpoint, but I guess paying for a membership, then waiting in line three times to check in/out and getting a free box that you load yourself might cause such a city-type opinion letter. Sorry, I digress.

While I’m digressing, let me say that people from all over the world buy, and receive as gifts, our Cookie Crock reusable bags. Even people who shop at Saks and Tiffany’s. There is no place in the world like Cambria. Visitors cherish their memories of our beautiful community and our friendly people.

I, too, wish we didn’t have to charge for our bags. By the way, the bags we are mandated to charge 10 cents for cost us over 14 cents. Some stores charge over 30 cents each, and one commissioner wanted the minimum charge to be 50 cents. In addition to losing money on every one of the new bags, we gave away FREE reusable bags for two weeks prior to the bag law taking effect. We believe educating the consumer was the top priority. Sorry, but there has been no windfall in profits to date. In fact, we can now be fined $1,000 per day for giving away free bags. Just a little draconian, i.e. “Big City”, don’t you think? I do hope Mr. Torchia is saving his reusable boxes. Speaking of boxes, the Cambria Cookie Crock continues to have boxes available when possible, even though we have been paid for our baled cardboard (i.e. recycling boxes) for over 20 years. Our people do their best.

Cookie Crock staff testified at every Waste Management hearing regarding bags, and I don’t recall Mr. Torchia in the packed house or on the extensive speakers lists at any of the meetings. The ordinance passed by one vote. The Atascadero and Paso Robles city council representatives threatened to pull out of the Waste Management Commission. You see, the commission could not impose a bag tax or fine without a two-thirds vote of “we the people.” So we have this bag ordinance with the grocers in the middle. Many requests were made for a vote of the people, including each incorporated city council, so each town would know the story. But the commission has the authority and the vote.

The Waste Management commissioners are all of our five county supervisors, a representative from each incorporated city, and one at-large member representing all unincorporated districts of the county. Did anyone who disagrees with the bag ordinance call any of the responsible parties? Our stores handed out informational literature —with contact phone numbers — to all customers. Votes do count. Do you know how your supervisor voted?

I fully support recycling at all levels, yet I, too, have many reservations regarding the Bag Ban, including (1) The fact that there are no established goals for success, (2) We are being encouraged to mirror the European shopping model (daily shopping trips, walking of course), and (3) I personally think that if the ban is such an important environmental issue, then I would have expected all farmers markets to be voluntary bag banners. We would be arm-in-arm singing “Kumbaya” for the best environment. But no, the commission, for no known reason, gave a very last-minute exemption to all of our county farmers markets. I ask you, what is wrong with this picture? Yes, water bottles were mentioned several times to be next on the list of endangered species. I am not for imposing the bag ban on farmers markets or anyone else for that matter. A free and educated society is my goal. So I again question, is it for the environment or just to collectively feel the pain? Please don’t forget your clean reusable bags and recycle zealously!!