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Mailbag: Bag ban yes, but Styrofoam no: Why?

Editor's note: This email was also sent to Huntington Beach Councilman Jim Katapodis, who responds below.

Let me start with this basic question of Councilman Jim Katapodis: What is the difference between plastic bags and Styrofoam containers environmentally?

Why is it you voted to ban bags but voted against a polystyrene ban?

Why don't council members want to allow the residents their given right to vote on issues that affect them? Do you not represent the taxpayers? At least let us decide the direction we should take and not force us to follow an anarchistic approach based on your own interests and agenda.

This seems to be a trend for liberals and conservatives — I am neither. I'm just an educated and opinionated citizen who feels that the rights of the voters are being trampled on by self-aggrandizing political representatives — local, state and federal — who have no regard for the constituency and believe that everyone thinks as they do on every issue. Wrong!

Oh, they will say "this is what I heard" from my contacts in the community, but is that not jaded? How much time do you spend with folks — outside of your comfort zone and network — especially those with dissenting views? What do the majority want? If they agree, fine, but let the people speak and decide for themselves. Remember, we pay your stipends as elected officials.

I was a child of the '60s long before saving the Earth was the Gucci thing to do, and before Prius cars and the maze of newbies decided to save the planet. I've been recycling all my life and been water wise. That was the lifestyle I have grown up with and continue to live.

My bane is political intrusion into people's choices and rights, whether or not you or I agree. Stand by our Founding Fathers' agenda and faith in creating a democracy. Let the people vote on matters that affect them.

It is America, is it not?

Drew Kovacs

Huntington Beach

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Why I voted to ban plastic and not polystyrene

I voted in support of the plastic bag ban based on what I have heard from Huntington Beach residents with whom I spoke, as well as emails and letters that I have received.

I engaged in a dialogue with a great number of residents, beginning when the issue was first brought before the City Council last year. During that time, I happened to be on vacation in Hawaii and saw that it has a plastic bag ban in place. I was surprised when told I would have to pay for having my groceries put in a bag. But after noticing that there was barely any litter in the form of plastic bags, I've concluded it is a good thing.

I also asked the grocery clerks in Hawaii about the reaction of the people when they were told about the extra charge for the bags, and was informed that nobody really cared or said anything.

This time around, to get a better scope on the issue, I spoke to people in Long Beach to get their take on the issue. I found that it took the Long Beach residents about a year to get used to the idea, but they are now remembering to bring their own bags to stores and are liking the new way of doing things. They don't feel inconvenienced anymore, since it is more a habit now, although there was a bit of resistance at the beginning.

I also based my decision to vote for the ban on the fact that state Senate Bill 270 was making its rounds in our Legislature. The bill would ban plastic bags throughout California. It is expected to pass and be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown by the end of August. This is why I suggested during the council meeting that we wait. If the bill passes, the state would have a bag ban whether Huntington Beach wants one or not.

If the bill does not get signed, then I will put an item on the agenda to bring back the request to have the city place the bag ban on the ballot. My responsibility as a City Council member is to avoid expenses when they can be avoided.

Again, as a representative of the H.B. business community, I voted against having a polystyrene ban because quite a number of small-business owners reached out to me and voiced concern about the financial effects in this competitive market.

In addition, the larger business owners who can afford to switch from Styrofoam to other types of containers have already done so on their own initiative. Thus, it is pointless to promote an ordinance when the desired action is already being put into practice. When I pressed that button to cast my vote, I did so with the business community's voice in my mind.

Being in public office is a tough balancing act. It is seldom that 100% of the residents will be pleased with the choices that will be made. I knew that when I took this job. I know that every time I press that button, 50% of the residents may not be happy with how I voted.

I agree that we live in a democracy — one where the voice of the people is heard through free elections. The result is a decision based on the majority vote.

Rest assured that the well-being of the residents of Huntington Beach is foremost in my mind whenever I cast a vote on any issue.

Jim Katapodis

Councilman,

Huntington Beach

LED lights make biking safer

As an avid cyclist living in Huntington Beach for nearly 25 years now, I have seen my share of altercations and near collisions between drivers and cyclists.

I have found that the vast majority of drivers are courteous and attentive, as long as you pay them the same respect and follow the rules of the road.

As a driver, I cannot believe how some cyclists camouflage themselves to the point where it is almost impossible to see them, wearing black clothing at night with no lights on their bike, for instance.

For a small investment, every cyclist who rides in Huntington Beach could be much more visible. Recent advances in technology have developed ultra-bright LED flashers designed to attach to the bike. Every bike should have a red flasher in the rear and a white strobe flasher in the front.

When I attached the white strobe light to my bike, I felt, for the first time, that drivers actually saw me coming. These lights are designed not just for nighttime use but are so bright that they are very effective for daytime also. Even during sunlight, a bike can be hard to see because of shading and the position of the sun, at sunrise and sunset especially.

How many lives could be saved by a small investment?

Dan Cohen

Huntington Beach

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