Since the first of this year, shoppers in Homer have had to get used to a new law prohibiting plastic shopping bags. Similar to existing laws in Seattle and San Francisco, the ban was passed by the Homer City Council last year as a way to cut down on litter and protect the marine environment. But Homer voters may end up having the final say on whether Homer’s ban lasts through the year.
It wasn’t long after Homer’s plastic bag ban was passed last year that a few fed-up citizens decided to do something about it.
Justin Arnold was the driving force behind gathering signatures for a ballot initiative, with the goal of putting the issue before voters at this fall’s municipal election. He had help from a handful of people, including local realtor and radio personality Chris Story, who used his public mouthpiece to advocate for the ballot initiative.
Story, who himself spent an afternoon gathering signatures out in front of the Save-U-More grocery store, says that if the plastic bag ban is allowed to stand, it’s only the beginning of a series of actions the council could take to – as he says it – “change your behavior.”
“This is just one classic example of a small, select group of people making decisions based on how they feel about something and the emotions of it,” said Story. “I was born and raised in this community (and) I do not want to see plastic bags on the beaches … but where does it stop from there?”
Homer City Council member David Lewis sponsored the bag ban along with council member Beau Burgess.
Lewis says that since the plastic bag ban went into effect January 1, he has heard all sorts of feedback about it from friends and acquaintances, including, where else … at the grocery store.
“I have gotten a wide range of opinions, both for it and against it,” said Lewis. “Like anything else here in Homer, you have people that will give you their opinion on it.”
Lewis says he was disheartened to see that some local grocery stores, including Safeway, began offering paper bags to customers instead of promoting the use of canvas or cloth reusable bags. He says the reusable bags didn’t catch on with Homer shoppers as quickly as he had hoped.
For the most part, Chris Story doesn’t take issue with the notion that, in an ideal world, Homer consumers would carry with them reusable grocery bags. His wife has even convinced him to start that practice himself.
Story’s main problem with the bag ban is what he refers to as a “top down” style of government telling citizens and business owners what they can and can’t do.
In an email Tuesday, City Clerk Jo Johnson said the petition was turned in on time and her office was in the process of verifying signatures. By law, the petition must be signed by at least 25 percent of the number of votes cast at the last regular election, meaning a total of 230 verified signatures would be required.
Johnson said she expected the certification to be completed by Friday.
Story says Arnold was able to collect more than 400 total signatures and he is confident the initiative will be approved.
If the ballot initiative is certified by the clerk’s office, the question will be put to Homer voters at the October 1 municipal election. David Lewis says that if Homer voters overturn the bag ban, he does not plan to pursue the issue again.