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Homer has bigger fish than plastic bags to fry

Posted: September 26, 2013 - 10:03am

I like Chris Story. He’s funny, he raises his family here, and he drives dollars into our local economy. But I like him for another reason: He has the passion of his convictions to not only speak his mind, but also to act on it. I wish there were more like him in our community.

So I hope that prelude gives me the leg room to explain why a few limits on plastic bags in Homer are not some full-throated assault on our personal freedoms. It may not be a great policy decision. But I don’t feel less “free” because I can’t fill my cupboard with plastic grocery bags.

“Freedom” is plainly more than a word; it’s a value deeply woven into our collective consciousness. The notions of freedom are engrained in our being as Americans, and they trace back to our Constitution, the Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, and even the Magna Carta, when we ripped off the oppressive yoke of the King and stood up for individual rights and liberties. 

America is founded on individualism and personal freedoms, and for Alaskans, those values are perhaps more deeply embedded, because we are, after all, the “Last Frontier.”

But with every right comes an obligation, and despite any romantic notions of “freedom” we might put forward, the fact is we rely on basic rules and safeguards to create the predictability needed for successful economies and communities. In other words, if everyone had complete “freedom” — and made up their own rules — we’d live in utter chaos, where basic decisions about business investment and community enhancement would be impossible.

But it’s easy to pick on government.

I recall a day when my dad was still alive. I talked to him after I had just lost an appeal before the Kenai Peninsula Borough planning commission on whether a gravel pit should be developed immediately adjacent to the Anchor River (the river later flooded the gravel pit, resulting in tens of thousands of public dollars needed to restore the lost salmon habitat). I spoke about the loss of salmon habitat across the globe, and asked “Why does government need to continually repeat the mistakes we’ve seen elsewhere?”

He asked “what do you mean?” My dad was a smart guy, but a sarcastic guy, too, so I sensed feigned ignorance and retorted, “What do you mean, what do I mean?”

He said “As individuals, we repeat our mistakes time and again. So what makes you think the institutions we create won’t do the same?” 

Then he offered the famous quote attributed to Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst kind of government, except for all the rest.”

Those words took a minute to sink in, but they shaped my world view forever. 

As I’ve wrestled with the role of government for the last 25 years, I’ve learned all too well our governments are messy, inefficient, and often wasteful reflections of the people they represent. There’s popular discontent with the generic notion of “government” these days, and for good reason.

But government exists for a basic reason: We need to manage an increasingly populated society. We didn’t need stop signs until we had more cars on the road. We didn’t need leash laws in town until more dogs bit more kids. We didn’t need a public sewer system until, well, you get the picture. 

I don’t think the plastic bag ban reflects the most pressing problems we have as a community. But I also don’t think it reflects some wild-eyed over reach by “big government” to control our lives.

When I think about the loss of my personal freedoms, I think about why I have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to ensure my family has basic health care. And I think about why we spend so much money on wars abroad when we don’t spend a fraction of those dollars educating our kids or taking care of our veterans at home. 

These are some of the real assaults on our freedoms we’ll need to work together to resolve.

Bob Shavelson is a Homer resident.

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kearbear 09/27/13 - 06:34 am
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims, may be the most oppressive.
C. S. Lewis

"We need to manage an increasingly populated society"? The ban on plastic bags is local government attempting to modify behavior through the power of government. People should object and speak out against what they perceive as not only an inconvenience but an assault on their personal choices.

There are multitudes of negative outcomes due to this ban including the unsanitary reusable bags that are carried in and out of stores and public highly trafficked areas carrying everything from e-coli to viruses, to other bacterias, and contaminants. There's a reason we do not reuse personal and healthcare products. There's a reason we wash our hands constantly and wear gloves when dealing with transmittable diseases and reusable bags transmit disease.

If you don't comprehend why people object to Obamacare, when you refer to your loss of freedom, because you pay tens of thousands of dollars insuring your family, as most of us do. Let me enlighten you. The redistribution of taxpayer money from the treasury to your pocket through subsidized healthcare insurance and government mandates is an attack on all American's freedoms.

Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
Edmund Burke

foxriverfred 09/28/13 - 05:36 pm
Kearbear bathes with plastic bag towels?

Yup. You don't keep your stuff clean and you end up with all sorts of fun bacteria and smells. Oh, and you stink, also.
I knew you, of all people, could link plastic bags to Obamacare.
Wow!!! Tyranny is now comes in not using plastic bags.
Well, the "baggers" will be out of our hair soon. Ol' Ted just burned his presidential fun ticket along with Rick, Michelle, Sarah, Mitt and all of those other regressives.
Me, I think I'll go duck hunting tomorrow (should be pretty good) and laugh about all of those people who can't seem to wash their stuff and stink up Alice's every time they come in.
Speaking of which, remember when Piggy came to the Alice's Halloween Party dressed as an octopus?

Reality Bites
Reality Bites 10/03/13 - 09:40 am
Shavelson not doing his job

Homer has more specific problems than Obamacare and as someone who leads the Cook Inlet Keeper, one would think you would be more concerned about Buccaneer parking their rig on the spit again and Buccaneer starting to drill for natural gas out east end road where they are not welcome, will be taking and poisoning the water of local residents, contaminating the air and spreading toxic waste into the watershed for many of our fisheries.

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