Advocates of from Southampton Town stores decided that even though a Town Board majority on such an ordinance, they would still be heard.
During the public portion of the Dec. 22 Town Board meeting, seven speakers took to the lectern to urge the board to do as and ban retailers and restaurants from distributing plastic shopping bags. The aim is to reduce the use of plastic, which is a nonrenewable petroleum product, and to prevent bags from littering the environment and endangering wildlife. Two speakers expressed frustration that while they thought there were enough votes secured to schedule a hearing, a councilwoman later changed her mind.
The Republican and Conservative members of the board say they want to give educational efforts a try to encourage residents to bring reusable bags while shopping, but advocates say education has been shown to be barely effective in reducing the number of bags distributed.
"It is the right thing to pass ordinances that encourage good decisions, like doing your seatbelt or warning you about the danger of carcingens in cigarettes, alchohol, things like that," said Linda Stabler-Talty, a member of Southampton Village's SAVE committee, Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment.
Stabler-Talty said that in other municipalities, such as San Francisco and the state of New York, where education was attempted, "it led to less then 1 percent decrease of use, whereas in Westport, Connecticut, which is the model we used ... they have witnessed a 90 percent compliance and decrease in plastic bags in their community."
She said birds, sea mammals and turtles ingest plastic, and it is a real issue in an area such as Southampton that includes several water bodies. "Plastic contributes to a real problem and difficulty," she said. "Right here in our community, we can see it on our beaches, we can see it on our lakes and ponds."
Another SAVE member, Sue Dubner, told the Town Board, "Plastic bags burst on the scene in the '70s in an effort to decrease trash, waste and litter. They turned out to be a good idea gone wrong."
Southampton Village resident Walter Skretch asked then-Councilwoman Nancy Graboski why she signed a document stating she supported having a public hearing, then rescinded her vote, and SAVE member Mackie Finnerty pressed her on it as well.
"You listened to the lobbyists," Finnerty told the board. "This is just like Washington."
Graboski, a Republican, took exception to the swipes at her.
"First of all, I haven't built a reputation for myself by toeing the party line — any party line," she said. "I haven't built a reputation for myself to kowtowing to lobbyist groups."
"I make my decision on the basic of the merits," Graboski said, explaining she she decided that the "heavy hand of government" should not be putting a financial burden on a whole industry, and there needs to be time for a transition.
It was , having hit her term limit. , another Republican, replaced Graboski in January.
The change on the board is not likely to affect prospects for a plastic ban bag in the near future.
“The goal is actually something I think we all share, but the means by which we get there differ perhaps,” Scalera said in a December interview. She added that the town board had indicated it would try education first before pursuing a ban, and it doesn't seem fair to businesses to forgo it now.