Select Board to kids: Let's wait and see
MANCHESTER — Fifth-graders from Manchester Elementary Middle School were back in front of the Manchester Select Board with their request the town pass a ban on single-use, thin-film plastic bags, but they were asked to wait.
After seven MEMS fifth-graders read short speeches, some including pleas to listen to the voters who overwhelmingly supported an advisory measure at Town Meeting to pass a bag ban, the board again asked the students for patience as they watch the Legislature.
A Senate bill, which two of the MEMS fifth-graders traveled to Montpelier to testify in favor of, is making its way through the legislative
process. That bill was expected to get a vote in front of the full state Senate on Thursday.
Board chairman Ivan
Beattie asked the students to allow the Select Board to wait for that process to be completed.
"I would like to continue to watch this bill in the Legislature," Beattie said. "If it doesn't pass, I want to know why before we jerk our knee and consider an ordinance. There's still a lot to learn. The wheels of government move slowly, on purpose."
Beattie told the students he had been doing some research on the plastic bag issue and it's clear there is a problem.
"I agree with everyone that we use too much plastic," Beattie said.
Beattie said the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association, an industry trade group representing more than 750 Vermont businesses, has said it expects a bag ban is coming but wants a statewide rule so there isn't a patchwork of regulations around the state.
And Beattie also said he was concerned about a "cut-and-paste" ordinance from an existing ordinance.
The students had some backup in the audience.
Jeff Wilson reminded the board of the overwhelming vote at Town Meeting in support of a bag ban.
"Town Meeting is sacred," Wilson said. "If not a legal one, there is a moral obligation in some respects on your part."
And bag ban advocate Carl Bucholt said the concern about a patchwork of regulations is a good reason for Manchester to pass a ban — in order to put pressure on the state to eliminate the different regulations.
Bucholt also told the Select Board he went to 40 stores in the Manchester area and only one establishment was against the idea of a ban and that was a business that sold a product that was oiled and couldn't be placed in paper.
He also said the big stores — large chains — are fine with the ban.
"The big stores said, pass the law, we'll comply," Bucholt said. "Nobody is going to fight you on it."
Two speakers however urged the young advocates to learn both sides of the issue.
Perry Green, the Manchester GOP chairman, asked if there had been consideration of how people would carry their groceries and other purchases. He also reminded students that plastic was introduced in an effort to slow the decimation of forests from paper usage, including paper shopping bags.
Carol duPont warned the students to think about the danger of contamination in reusable bags. She said the bags will have to be washed to avoid spreading contamination.
Several people praised the students for being engaged.
"The younger generation sitting in this room cares so passionately about this," Bucholt said. "It behooves us to pay attention. It behooves you to pass a ban."
Board vice chairman Wayne Bell suggested the kids and adults be active in supporting the state bill and pressure members of the House of Representatives to support the bill. If it is approved in the Senate, it will start its journey through the House.
"I want the kids to know, you're being heard," Bell said. "It doesn't fall on deaf errors. I hear rumblings out there that the Select Board isn't paying attention to this. We are. We are doing what I think we should be doing in the appropriate manner."
And Beattie also praised the students.
"I really appreciate the amount of energy you have put into this and the lessons you've put together," Beattie said. "It's been a great civics lesson for all of us."
Contact Darren Marcy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at 802-681-6534.
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