4

Single-Use Plastic Bags Will Be Free Again Monday

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

At what Dwaine Caraway said would be his last City Council meeting, the term-limited council member put on a vintage performance, fighting against what's become the bane of his existence: single-use plastic bags. He lost. Single-use plastic bags will be free again on Monday, but he lost fighting the good fight.

Caraway was instrumental in the compromise the council passed in 2014. Single-use plastic bags would not be banned outright, as he wanted, but they would be subject to a nickel fee, 90 percent of which would go to the city. The fee went into effect January 1.

In May, a group of bag manufacturers sued the city, citing then-Attorney General Greg Abbott's 2014 opinion that plastic bag fees were probably illegal. In the suit's aftermath, dueling memos were sent to the mayor by two, five-council member cohorts. One asked that the fee be converted to an outright ban on the bags, imitating the policy in Austin and other cities, the other called simply for the fees repeal.

"You can either be the biggest city to take action on this or the first city in Texas to take the state backwards," Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment said.

After Trahan and the other open-microphone speakers — including a "plastic bag monster" that Mayor Mike Rawlings said looked like something out of Game of Thrones — it was Caraway's turn to take center stage one more time.

Aided by a prop fence and tree that he entangled plastic bags in, Caraway decried the bags for flying everywhere and ruining the landscape of southern Dallas.

"We will eventually be known as the world class city of plastic bags if we fail to take action today," he said.

Council members Rick Callahan and Jerry Allen, with help from Rawlings, made the case that fixing Dallas trash problem requires personal responsibility from residents and market forces, rather than regulations.

"We're not going to ban fried chicken boxes and stuff," Allen said, in explaining that there would be trash with or without the bags.

Rawlings said the core issue was the role of government in people's lives, then voted with the winning side in a 9-6 decision not to ban the bags. Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Carolyn Davis, Lee Kleinman and Philip Kingston voted with Caraway.

"What you all are doing here today, this is wrong. I made a lot of mistakes and one of those mistakes was not to voice up even more," Caraway said. "This is about money."

Caraway then stressed his plans to write a book about this City Council and told Rawlings he wished he'd run against the mayor when he'd had the chance.

"This vote today tells you that they don't care," Caraway said, before breaking out his impression of council member Vonciel Jones Hill explaining why she doesn't want to ban the bags.

Hill informed Caraway that her voice was a gift from God and that she resented his implication that her vote against the ban was meant to please her campaign contributors.

"What you get when you contribute to my campaign is good government," she said.

Still needing to do something to fix an ordinance that is, as Abbott said, probably illegal, the council then voted 10-4 to ditch the fee, with Medrano switching sides because, he said, he didn't believe the city could win the lawsuit.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.