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Reader: Colorado Will Never Become California...Too Bad

In late January, a bill that would have prohibited restaurants and other food-service establishments from giving customers single-use plastic straws unless they ask for them was introduced at the Colorado Legislature.

Proposals similar to HB 19-1143, "Distribute Plastic Straws Only Upon Request," have been adopted in other states (California, we're looking at you) and municipalities in an effort to cut back on waste and pollution. Unlike some of those measures, Colorado's prohibition would have been voluntary and did not involve any enforcement. Even so, some people didn't like it, including Michael Lopez, who penned an op-ed opposing the plan. "This legislation is not progressive or moral, nor is it the way of Coloradans," he wrote. "The Libertarian Party calls on the legislature to cease their march toward social engineering through force, as they do in California."

On February 25, the House Energy and Environment committee postponed consideration of the bill indefinitely, which means it's as good as dead this session. But the debate continues.

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Says Ingrid: 

I know I’m not supposed to tell people this, but I have to come clean: I’m from California. Lots of Coloradans, perhaps Lopez included, tell us to stay away, to stop overcrowding Denver and trying to make Colorado into a landlocked-California-clone. I agree with Lopez that fining or imprisoning waitstaff for giving patrons plastic straws is a bit draconian. However, I disagree that Colorado Democrats “have forgotten in which state they reside.” In fact, I think that by supporting pro-conservation policies, they’re embracing their Colorado identity more than ever before. Although I support legislation that bans or discourages plastic waste, I haven’t been thinking too much about a potential straw ban here in Colorado. I envision bigger and better things from our legislature this year. Our elected officials can make Colorado a leader in fighting climate change. That doesn’t mean they can make Colorado into California. It means that we can protect the mountains, skiing, hiking, rivers, camping, forests that make Colorado so special. It actually means that we can potentially outpace California in fighting the massive threat that is climate change. The science is clear, the warnings are daunting, and time is running out. We must take action to reduce carbon pollution across the state. I hope to see our legislators protect Colorado’s future and everything which makes this place majestic — all the while remembering what state they’re in and why they love it.

Notes Jeremy: 

The opposition isn't necessarily because people want straws. It's because of government overreach. The problem with California is massive taxation & over-regulation...nobody really wants that here, it's already expensive enough. Colorado is the birthplace of the Libertarian Party, it's always been a place where people "do their own thing." If people want to self-regulate their behavior, that's fine, but we really DON'T need an overtaxed, over-regulated nanny state here. If we did want that, we'd all move to California or New York City.

Responds Charles:

 Single-use plastic is becoming a thing of the past... like coal and smallpox. Nothing wrong with using less and innovating so we don’t destroy our planet.

Counters JP:

 Yet, everyone in Colorado owns an SUV, congests the mountains every weekend, pollutes the trails with doggie poop bags, barely uses public transportation (I’m guilty of this one) and is growing in population and popularity (not sure if that’s good or bad). Yes yes, let’s ban plastic straws, but it just seems like one of those things we do to feel a little better, when I wonder if we are actually accomplishing anything? Just my thoughts? Are we? As whole, making a difference? We consume so much and throw away even more.

Concludes Maegan: 

I've read a lot of stupid op eds in Westword, but this is by far the dumbest. Santa Barbara (and California in general) is a progressive place literally located on the beach, and the fact that they're taking steps to keep unnecessary plastic waste out of our oceans is a great thing. Nobody is being "jailed" for handing out straws; in fact, there was a huge backlash towards this measure because some people with disabilities need straws to drink, so you can still request one at any restaurant and they have to give you one. Colorado will never "become" California because it's full of people like this, but we would be lucky if it did. 

The Colorado Restaurant Association had asked Representative Susan Lontine to introduce the bill, which it saw as a moderate approach to the straw issue that has resulted in outright bans in other cities. And that's created a problem for certain people, including the disabled, who depend on straws to drink. But requiring restaurants to provide bio-degradable, reusable straws was seen as cost-prohibitive.

Still, even this modest proposal didn't make it out of committee.

In the meantime, many local restaurants have taken things into their own hands, and already gone to straws on request, environmentally friendly straws or or no straws at all.

What did you think of the straws-on-request proposal? Should the legislature bring it back? Post a comment or email your thoughts to editorial@westword.com.

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