Our mayor believes that Athens-Clarke County shouldn’t be allowed to ban plastic bags, because that might drive shoppers away from our county to Oconee, where they can get plastic bags. She says that if plastic bags are going to be banned, it should be a statewide ban, so that no county is put at a disadvantage in regard to any other county. The Georgia legislature would have to pass such a statewide ban, and of course they are not about to do that, and in fact the legislature is presently considering a bill that would stop Athens and several other local governments from banning plastic bags.
Now, this would actually be funny if it weren’t for the fact that plastic bags have been unequivocally proven to suck up petroleum products in their manufacture and to be a monstrous litter problem on our roadways and our waterways and a horrible health hazard to aquatic animals who tend to ingest them and die.
So, you know, people who care about such things believe that the disadvantages of plastic bags outweigh their benefits and that paper bags can hold just as much as plastic bags, and they can be recycled and reused, and of course cloth bags can be reused indefinitely, if you can just remember to keep them in your car and take them into the store.
So, for the mayor to disregard the valid environmental arguments against plastic bags in a place like Athens is kind of an affront to a lot of people here. For it to come to light that the mayor has been over in Atlanta actively lobbying the legislators in favor of a bill that specifically prohibits Athens-Clarke County from banning plastic bags, and that she did it sort of behind our backs, that is preposterous. But it really kind of illustrates what’s wrong about our mayor in terms of her representing a lot of the folks in Athens.
And, in fact, her arguments against doing anything about plastic bags are pretty much the same as her reluctance to do anything to calm traffic on Prince Avenue—basically that if we slow anybody down who is trying to get into downtown, they may just turn the wheel and head over to Oconee County to get whatever they were coming downtown to get. So, therefore, we can’t do anything to slow traffic on Prince, in spite of the strong environmental reasons to slow down traffic, such as people riding bicycles on Prince Avenue or trying to walk across it to get to one of the local businesses along it. Those businesses are not as important as the ones wherever the cars are rushing, and people will just have to take their chances against four lanes of extremely fast traffic.
You see, we elected the mayor twice by healthy margins, so she’s just doing her job. She got a majority of the vote—twice—so the assumption is that she represents the majority of the people, and the corollary is that the majority of our citizens want their plastic bags and don’t care that they muck up the environment, and they want to be able to speed down Prince Avenue without having to worry about bicyclists and pedestrians.
It’s just kind of hard to take our own mayor being over there lobbying against the wishes of some of her citizens, who want to decide this issue for ourselves, while she’s telling the legislators that her city shouldn’t have that right.
I guess the minority who didn’t vote for the mayor are kind of getting tired of having stuff done to us behind our backs. For instance, they fired the dean who has made such a success of our health sciences campus, a woman who is accessible to all the students and has involved so many local doctors in helping to train the medical students, and then she’s fired, and it looks mighty like it’s because she’s doing too good a job and threatening the Augusta medical college, which has always been extremely jealous of its prerogatives down there.
Also, a lot of older Athenians are touchy right now, since it has come to light that our effective university health insurance has been changed behind our backs without anybody even knowing about it until it was a done deal.
It’s kind of like if we didn’t vote for the mayor or the governor or the legislators, then we don’t count, and they don’t need to inform us, even in matters of the utmost importance to our lives.
When the mayor went to Atlanta to represent Athens, you would have thought she’d be speaking out on behalf of the medical school or the health insurance of her constituents. To find out, instead, that she was over there lobbying for plastic bags, well, it just flies in the face of common sense.