Thursday, February 9, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Think of it as equivalent of the repeal of Obamacare.
After the City of Brownsville under the direction of its legal eagles drafted the ordinance that instituted a $1 fee on plastic bags beginning in 2011, residents had to buy reusable bags.
The justification for the ordinance ostensibly was to protect the environment, combat pollution and free up landfill space taken up by the "urban tumbleweeds," and to provide money for the purchase of street sweepers and other equipment.

Then, last October, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office was suing the city for its plastic bag environmental fee, which Paxton called “an illegal sales tax.” Paxton said that the fee amounted to charging twice for solid waste management functions of city government.

City Attorney Mark E. Sossi, the architect of the ordinance, said at the time Paxton filed the lawsuit that: "Brownsville’s plastic bag ordinance has made the City a cleaner place. I remember that before the City enacted this ordinance, it was common to see plastic bags blowing around on the streets, in common areas, and floating in the resacas.

"The abuse of the plastic bags was a big problem here. City leadership took action to solve this problem. We received no help from the State in doing this. The City had to do it on our own. The City of Brownsville enacted the plastic bag ban, and it has worked. Our community is a cleaner place because of it. While this might not matter to Mr. Paxton, it should matter to us."

Well, even with the ban, the city still has the litter problem. And it turns out that Sossi was wrong (no surprise there) and was forced by the AG to to go back to the drawing board and "fine tune" the errant ordinance. With the help of the Healthy Communities of Brownsville – an aging, obese, and ethnic makeup totally unrepresentative group of the local population – they have set out a new set of rules for stores and consumers.
Now they have gone back, renounced the fee, and made exceptions to the plastic bag ban. These exceptions include dry cleaning plastic bags, plastic bags to carry pharmaceutical products, flowers, produce, nuts, grains, candy and small hardware items. among others. 

Oh, and if the stores have to buy paper bags – which are acceptable – they have the option of charging their customers for them and keeping the money for themselves.

The beneficiaries will be domestic cattle (?) who might choke on the plastic, sea turtles, migratory birds, and storms drains that won't get clogged up and cause flooding. 
Brownsville has always been a windy city. Everything that isn't held down blows north in the warm months, and south when a northern comes in. In fact, on its tourist brochures, the Chamber of Commerce used to brag about how it enjoyed the traditional southeast trade winds.

We thought keeping livestock and poultry were not allowed inside the city limits and don't know the last time anyone went to their local HEB and then headed out to sea to dump plastic bags in the ocean and harm Ridely's turtles. Most of the plastic bags that wash up on shore come from shrimp boats with home ports up and down the coast here the plastic bags aren't banned. And if Brownsville had a credible drainage system bags wouldn't really matter.

We also have a suggestion. Maybe the weight-challenged silver-hairs might want to do something to keep themselves busy by looking into the utility rate hikes and the millions ($90 millions last time we checked) charged to issue bonds to build the Tenaska pipe dream...Just thinking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have been to HEB many times carrying my re-usable bags and watched as couple after couple come out of the stores with all their purchases in plastic bags. Does our welfare programs pay the charge for those bags?
Do food stamps, the Texas card, or whatever taxpayer funded "eat for free" or did they pay for all those bags. There are plenty of plastic bags flying around in the wind and attaching themselves to fences, bushes, and trees. Brownsville is just as dirty as ever, because the citizens of the city don't give a shit and in many cases don't pay taxes anyway. Add to that, the Mexican nationals that make purchases here and then unpack all boxes and toss the packing materials in the parking lots. There is no longer any public input to the commissioners meetings and thus Tony Martinez and his cohorts have gone dark to the public and none of them seem to have a clue about Brownsville.