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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lawsuits waste tax payer money

I have to tell you, our local newspaper is horrible in terms of the volume of articles they produce each day. Our little real estate technology publishing company produces more original content with one person (shout out to my friend Emily Williams!). However, the San Luis Obispo Tribune has been doing a darn good job of following the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisor's efforts to rid our area of plastic bags. I have been following the story (online). Here is a previous post about the San Luis Obispo Plastic Bag Ban. What is killing me now is that the County faces tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills to defend the plastic bag ban against special interest groups - in this case - plastic bag manufacturers.


Here is some history. Round one was a campaign for and against the ban. The community wants the ban - and some lame "not for profit" who will neither "confirm nor deny" its affiliation with the plastic bag industry is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to block the ban. They had auto-dialers calling every household. They can circumvent the Federal Do Not Call list because they are a non-profit. Despite their efforts, they lost.

The County Board of Supervisors, representing the citizens of our county, passes the ban on plastic bags. No more plastic bags! Hurray..... but not so fast.

A law firm is now challenging the ban, so the brave citizens of our county who are trying to help the environment will now need to waste community funds to fight it out in court. This kind of needless and wasteful spending in our court system puts a noose around our country. Rather than community funds going to help the community, they will be wasted on a lawsuit.

It only took me about 2 seconds to find the Save the Plastic Bags Coalition website that clearly states "In April 2007, after San Francisco banned plastic bags, he (Stephen Joseph, esq) was approached by plastic bag manufacturers who wanted him to help defeat ban initiatives."

So for the past 4 years, this lawyer and his firm have been paid to disrupt the good faith activities of the communities of California who do not want plastic bags. Moreover, the citizens of California have been paying lawyers to defend the laws passed by their forward looking, environmentally conscious public representatives who are doing the job that the tax payer asked them to do. The waste sickens me.

Here is the update from the San Luis Obispo Tribune Article


An attorney suing the county waste management board over its adoption of an ordinance that would ban plastic shopping bags at most stores in San Luis Obispo County has withdrawn one of his reasons for the litigation but has left the other intact.

Stephen L. Joseph, representing the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, said challenging the “yes” vote of board member Greg O’Sullivan “will impede and substantially slow down efforts by other parties to invalidate the ordinance.”

The other “cause of action,” the contention that the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority should have completed an environmental impact report before voting on the ordinance, remains in place.

It is scheduled for a hearing March 22 before San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall.
The board adopted the ban Jan. 11 after a heated four-hour meeting at which scores of people testified pro or con. Hundreds of others also made their feelings known through letters, phone calls, emails and personal contact.

Under the terms of the joint-powers agreement that created the waste management authority, the 13-member board needed eight votes to approve or reject the ordinance. It received eight in favor.
Each of the five county supervisors has a vote, as do representatives of each of the seven cities in the county.

O’Sullivan’s position is unique. He represents all 10 of the smaller community services districts in unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County, from Nipomo to San Miguel.

However, he comes from only one of them, the Templeton Community Services District. Templeton’s board of directors, on a 3-2 vote, opposed the ordinance.

O’Sullivan said his yes vote was on behalf of the “citizens of the county,” which goes beyond the Templeton district. It is that vote that Joseph’s suit initially challenged.

The ordinance, set to take effect in October, allows retailers to distribute paper bags, but only if they charge customers 10 cents apiece.

Environmentalists have been aggressively persuading local governments to adopt similar ordinances and have succeeded in dozens of cities and towns across the United States. In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban the free distribution of plastic bags.

Other cities and counties across the country have followed, including Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Jose, Los Angeles County, and Washington, D.C. Smaller cities such as Santa Monica, Long Beach, Carpinteria and Fairfax have enacted some form of ban or limitation on the use of plastic bags.

Joseph characterizes the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, formed in 2008, as a nonprofit environmental organization. His critics have called it a front for the plastics industry, which he denies.



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