Basalt voters reject bag ban
April 4, 2012
BASALT – A proposal by the Basalt Town Council to ban plastic grocery bags and charge a fee for paper bags was shot down by voters Tuesday. The same measure passed in Carbondale.
In Basalt, 363 voters or 47.5 percent, approved the measure, while 401 or 52.5 percent were opposed. In Carbondale, 51 percent favored the action on bags.
Basalt resident and bag-ban foe Roy Chorbajian said he thought the vote would be close. He said opponents didn’t have a voice with the council when the measure was considered.
“Basically, it’s government overreach,” he said when asked to explain the opposition to the measure. “They just didn’t want government telling them what to do.”
After this vote, Basalt’s elected officials might do a better job of talking to its residents before taking action on symbolic environmental initiatives and other issues, Chorbajian said.
“Maybe they’ll listen,” he said.
Proponents of the plastic-bag ban said prior to the election that they were confident Basalt residents would do what was best for the environment. They said the manufacturing of plastic bags requires too many resources and that the discarding of bags presented too great of an ecological cost.
Chorbajian countered that lots of people find lots of uses for plastic bags.
The bag-ban proposal was promoted by the Green Team, a committee composed of Basalt residents and elected officials. The group lobbied the full council last year to adopt a ban on both plastic and paper grocery bags. Instead, the council approved an ordinance to place a 20-cent fee on both types of bags. It was supposed to go into effect May 1.
The council majority said they didn’t want to wait for Aspen and Carbondale to chart their course on the bag issue. They felt it was time to act.
Chorbajian challenged the council’s direction and launched a petition drive. He gathered the necessary signatures from residents to force the council to either rescind the ordinance or place the question on the ballot. The council did both.
The council voted to rescind the ordinance with the fees on plastic and paper, and then it approved a modified ordinance to ban plastic grocery bags and retain the 20-cent fee on paper bags. They wanted to honor the spirit of Chorbajian’s petition and place the proposal before voters.
The Basalt council shifted gears and proposed to implement a ban on plastic bags to be consistent with the proposals in Aspen and Carbondale. Since the Basalt council’s initial vote in September for bag fees, Aspen had approved a plastic-bag ban, effective May 1.
Chorbajian said taking on Town Hall and winning made him feel good about the democratic process. However, he doesn’t plan to be a regular player in Basalt politics unless there’s another issue that riles him, he said.