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City Offices Flooded With Letters About Proposed Bag Ban, Most Of Them In Support

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
City council and the mayor's office are being filled with letters and emails, most of them in support, of a proposed plastic bag ban.

There are strong opinions in the debate over a proposed plastic bag ban. The idea has bounced back and forth between committee meetings so far, and according to staff members it will go before the full San Antonio City Council this month.

In the meantime, the 10 council members and mayor have received plenty of responses from the public. Their offices report they've received about 1,400 emails and letters, and an overwhelming number have been favorable toward a ban. Only five, they say, were opposed.

Brenda Viera told mayor Mayor Julián Castro in an email, "Our dependence on plastic bags in becoming an environmental disaster."

Viera asked him to think about the long term repercussions of businesses continuing to hand out plastic bags to customers, only to be thrown away a short time later.

Carl Smith wrote to the entire council and said, "I happen to like plastic bags," and questioned Councilman Cris Medina, the member initiating the plastic bag ban proposal, on his cost estimate of $1.3 million just to pick up bags.

Following a council gathering this week, Medina, after seeing a letter from Sheila Bryan, who wrote she is against a bag ban, said he was encouraged by all of the positive responses.

"You certainly want to be on the right side of it and I believe we are," Medina said, "so we're going to continue to have dialogue with the players that have been involved thus far, whether it's H-E-B or Wal-mart and my colleagues on the council, so that's very important."

In Bryan's letter, she said, "The majority of people in San Antonio do not litter and shouldn't be punished for the behavior of a few."

Medina countered that it's the few who have become a problem.

"It is the actions of a few out there that are really, I think, causing these plastic bags to be a nuisance and to be an issue in our community," Medina said. "But again, I point to the overwhelming support that we have for it and that's encouraging."

In yet another letter, Manuel Vargas addressed his frustration to District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña. "The problem is not the bags," he said, "it's the people."

Saldaña took a moment to think about the statement.

"The 'against' actually has an interesting point that may not be towards his argument, which is that this is not a bag problem, this is a people problem," Saldaña said. "And to that extent it seems like there have been folks who are advocating for more advanced education component to recycling. You know, I would just say that I feel like we've tried that as a city before when we haven't seen the progress, if you identify that the problem is we see too many plastic bags floating around throughout our city, creating an eyesore."

Saldaña has a box full of letters like these, and he's not the only one. But he is approaching the issue from the middle because he believes a ban needs to be justified, and there could be a long way to go still until San Antonio outright bans single-use plastic bags.

"To that extent I think we've got work to do if we're going to really convince folks that a solution is at hand if we decide to ban it," Saldaña said.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.