Newport City Councilors, on a 5-2 vote Monday night reaffirmed their commitment to ban single use carry-out plastic bags within the city limits of Newport. Both Mayor Dean Sawyer and Councilor David Allen voted no because they feel the issue should be decided by the voters – not the city council. Nearly six years ago Newport voters turned down the idea.
But many in the Monday night audience, a number of them children, claimed that single use carry-out bags are more than just visual blight, especially along our beaches, they also questioned whether allowing continued distribution of single use bags was healthy for the planet – especially for fish, whales sea birds and other sea creatures that confuse floating rafts of plastic debris with food. Scientists say that there are massive die offs of wildlife that think plastic is food. Scientists contend that the situation is already out of control and that massive clean-ups of numerous world ocean areas are long overdue.
Still, some members of the audience continued to push for a public vote on the issue. Their opponents, however, continued to maintain that a ban on the bags is long over-due, that banning re-usable carry-out bags is catching on across the country and around the world. When the council got down to voting, the bag ban was passed 5 to 2 – with Mayor Dean Sawyer and Councilor David Allen voting no because, they said, the voters should be given a chance to weigh in, yet again, on the issue. The last vote was in 2013 when the proposed ban was turned down.
As the audience cleared the room there were murmurs among those who want to keep their plastic bags and that a voter referendum against the ban might already be in the works. It was also noted that the Oregon Legislature is considering a bill that would outlaw single-use plastic bags state-wide. Surfrider Foundation’s Charlie Plybon told the council that a statewide plastic bag ban has a pretty good chance of passing in the legislature but that the bill has a ways to go before it crosses the finish line. If it does pass and is signed by Governor Brown, it would ban non-reusable plastic bags statewide according to the provisions of the new STATE law – not as accomplished by a number of Oregon counties and cities.
In other City Council action they continued to try to find a way to limit the number of Vacation Rental Dwellings (VRDs) in Newport. The debate contained very little that wasn’t already well-ploughed ground on the subject. The council appeared to be trying to find a workable compromise at slowly phasing out VRDs in areas where they aren’t welcome while concentrating them in areas better suited like the Nye Beach area. But a number of permanent Nye Beach area residents said their area is already over-stuffed with VRDSs and suffer from clogged streets, loud music, garbage-strewn driveways and other nuisances.
Councilors and some members of the audience suggested that VRD owners should pay higher VRD license fees so those funds could hire city police code enforcement officers – even create a “three-strikes-and-your-out” provision in the city’s VRD ordinances.
As mentioned above, the Council seems intent on congregating VRDs near Nye Beach, perhaps Agate Beach, and possibly some additional areas along the Bayfront and in select areas of South Beach. The whole idea is to encourage VRDs in areas full of restaurants, entertainment venues and convenient access to the beach. But that leaves a lot of VRDs in areas that frequently plague stable neighborhoods. How to phase-out those VRDs was a hot topic. There are those who own these “out of place” VRDs who, some say, should be given either 5 or 10 years to close down their operations and acquire properties in town that are more suitable for “active” vacationers. There is also an interest in weeding out some VRDs that are bunched too close together. How to convince the owners of these VRDs to sell out and acquire other properties in a more appropriate location was talked about, but the conversation tended to come back to Newport’s less than plentiful VRD-friendly neighborhoods.
The discussion is scheduled to continue in front of the Newport City Council May 6th as the city tries to put the “Genie Back in the Bottle” by finding more suitable areas for VRD growth leaving traditionally well-settled neighborhoods to enjoy the peace and quiet that prevailed before what many refer to as the VRD invasion.
And the Newport City Council entertained a high ranking U.S. Coast Guard Commander who gave the council a five year renewal on the city’s status as a U.S. Coast Guard USA city. Mayor Sawyer gratefully received the plaque commemorating what is now many years that the city has enjoyed the distinction.
And the officer also celebrated Newport High School senior Brennan Wood who competed against 3,000 other applicants nationwide who want to get their college degree from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Out of those 3,000 applicants 250 were awarded scholarships and young Brennan Wood was among them. Brennan will enjoy free tuition and free room and board. Brennan said it was always his goal to attend the Coast Guard Academy because he always pictured himself, throughout his childhood in Newport, as a life-long Coast Guardsman or Officer. Brennan Wood – a very determined young man at the ‘ripe old age’ of 18.