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Commentary: Carchio and Harper don't know their own bag

March 27, 2013|By Richard Lara

Differences of opinion among elected officials should be valued and respected because they contribute to the legislative process, but they should also be scrutinized. Two council members recently expressed opinions worthy of scrutiny while discussing the city's proposed ban on plastic bags. ("HB steps closer to banning plastic bags," March 19.)

First, council member Joe Carchio said of the proposal: "It's [already] on the assembly floor and this is where it should be, […]. It should be done by the state. It shouldn't be done by us. We shouldn't be doing this. The state of California should be doing this and Marc Levine is doing this."

Carchio suggests that the city is overstepping its bounds. This is false.

California's Constitution provides, in Article XI, Section 2. (a), that "[t]he Legislature shall prescribe uniform procedures for city formation and provide for city powers." A city has the power to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its people, so long as its regulations do not conflict with state or federal laws. One of the purposes of cities is to provide a unit of government that is more responsive than the Legislature. So, it is precisely from the State Legislature that Huntington Beach derives its power to ban plastic bags, and the city is neither obligated nor expected to wait on the legislature to pass a statewide law.

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Carchio's views suggest that we have less power and control over local circumstances than we do. As an elected official, Carchio should be exercising the city's power on our behalf instead of limiting it to our disadvantage. If he worries that the ban would not yield its intended results or that it would conflict with state or federal laws, then his concerns would be relevant. As they stand, however, his concerns are worse than irrelevant because they are misleading.

Next, Councilman Matthew Harper said that he "doesn't think the city or state should be telling businesses what they can and can't do with regard to bag distribution." He said we should not "follow in the footsteps of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach and West Hollywood" because "[w]e are different [and] [w]e should stand up for the freedoms of the people of Huntington Beach." He also says, "Huntington Beach [should not] race with the California Legislature in an effort to expand the role of government into our daily lives." Harper is mistaken.

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