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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 10:44 pm | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara Panel Holds Strong on Straw Ban, but Won’t Make Violations Criminal

Santa Barbara's three-member ordinance committee agreed on Tuesday to move forward with a plastic straw, cutlery and stirrer ban, but without the potential misdemeanor violation.

The vote was 2-1, with committee members Oscar Gutierrez and Kristen Sneddon in support and Randy Rowse in opposition. 

Although local environmentalists heaped praise on the city for taking action over the summer to ban plastic straws, except for medical purposes, national media pounced on the plan, with some suggesting city leaders were more focused on straws than dealing with homeless people.

In July, the council voted 6-1 to ban plastic straws, and make plastic stirrers and cutlery "on-demand" only.

Rowse continued to beat the drum of public education and awareness instead of a city ordinance. 

"This whole thing is unnecessarily complicated," said Rowse, who warned against more public ridicule over the ban. 

The original ordinance approved by the city in August suggested a misdemeanor penalty for a business that distributed plastic straws. Sneddon at Tuesday's meeting said the clause should be removed because it was misleading. 

"There's no intention of criminalizing straws," Sneddon said. 

Sneddon said that since Santa Barbara is tourist town, the city has an added responsibility to take strong environmental actions. Quite simply, since Santa Barbara is a coastal city, and more of its trash flows into the ocean, the city has the potential for more pollution, and therefore has an "added responsibility" to take care of the environment. 

As for people with disabilities, anyone who requests a plastic straw because of a disability will receive one.

"There's nothing in the ordinance that would require an individual to prove a disability," said City Attorney Ariel Calonne.

If a person were denied a plastic straw, it would likely be handled through an ADA lawsuit, not a city penalty. 

The council’s initial July 17 vote to ban plastic straws was met with resounding criticism nationally as well as overall confusion about the ordinance.

Fox NewsNewsweekPeople Magazine and The Daily Caller were among the many national news organizations that reported on the ban. President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., even tweeted about it.

Visit Santa Barbara received so many critical comments, both on the phone and via social media, that it contacted a crisis-communications consultant, a public relations agency and a social media company for assistance on how to deal with the outcry.

The matter must now return to the full council for a final vote later this year. The straw ban is not expected to take effect until Jan. 1

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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