Barrington Town Council candidates split on plastic bag ban

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Don Nessing, a Republican candidate for town council, said taking up a plastic bag ban in Barrington is “much ado about nothing” and described the initiative as “frivolous.”

The matter is slated for a public hearing next Monday night, Oct. 1.

Mr. Nessing previously spoke on the issue during a workshop in August, presenting the town council with reports that stated long-term environmental impacts may be better sought through examining the manufacturing, transportation and storage processes for plastic bags.

Mr. Nessing also said there are laws against littering and for those who ignore them, banning plastic bags will just lead to other types of material turning up as debris.

Shirley Applegate-Lockridge, also a Republican candidate, said her preference would be for local businesses to decide on their own. She referenced this summer’s workshop where Shaw’s announced it would be pulling plastic shopping bags from its County Road location.

“People have a pretty good civic spirit here in Barrington. Our businesses want to do what the town wants, they want to be cooperative. It made a lot of sense and it showed courage on the part of Shaw’s to step forward and say ‘we’re going to give this a try’,” she said.

The third Republican candidate for council, Margaret Kane, said she favors looking at the matter further before enacting an ordinance and, like Mr. Nessing, said there may be other more important issues for the town council to focus on.

Ms. Kane said the town council should see how Shaw’s “experiment” turns out to judge its impact on business.

“I think we shouldn’t be hasty,” she said.

Despite their concerns with the ban, neither Mr. Nessing, Ms. Applegate-Lockridge nor Ms. Kane said they would immediately pursue rescinding such an ordinance should it pass. Mr. Nessing said he would only want to re-visit the issue if it had a negative impact on the local business climate while Ms. Applegate-Lockridge said she is still developing her position. Ms. Kane said she would need to see what form the ban takes before deciding if the potential ordinance needs to be re-examined.

One of those who will have a say on the potential adoption of a plastic bag ban is incumbent town councilor Kate Weymouth, a Democrat.

Unlike her challengers, Ms. Weymouth said she supports the ban and views dealing with plastic products as one of the most important issues affecting the world’s environment.

Ms. Weymouth said tackling plastic bags is the “low hanging fruit” of this larger picture and while Barrington may only be one town, the move towards a ban could encourage surrounding communities and even the state to begin looking at the issue.

Democratic challenger Ann Strong said she has been using reusable bags for years and in Europe, customers are expected to bring their own bags shopping. Ms. Strong said she would support a ban on plastic shopping bags and would also favor banning paper bags as well as a push towards reusable bags.

Should she be elected, however, Ms. Strong said she would rather move on to new issues affecting the town than re-visiting the bag ban.

Town council president June Speakman, a Democrat, said she supports reducing an overall reliance on plastic, and while she was thrilled with Shaw’s recent decision, she was still in the process of determining what she believes to be the best course of action for Barrington.

Ms. Speakman said she is prepared to support some kind of action that would discourage the use of plastic bags but was still considering exactly what type of action that should be.

Independent Dist. 66 candidate Eugene Saveory, of Riverside, said his public service background and business experience differentiate his candidacy from his opponents.

Mr. Saveory is currently chairman of the East Providence Zoning Board of Review, where he has served for more than a decade, and he previously served on the East Providence Planning Board. While on the planning board, Mr. Saveory said he worked on a water pipeline project, something that demonstrates his ability to work with state officials.

Mr. Saveory also formerly owned a small business that distributed instrumental valves and fittings.

Mr. Saveory said one of his main issues is education and said that although the education funding formula brought additional state money to East Providence and Barrington, there is always more to find.

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