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Darren Hodges: Bag ban, local control made our town cleaner

February 1, 2015

Austin American Statesman 

"Others Say" editorial by Darren Hodges 


When the tea party rolled through West Texas, I signed on because I have a problem with big, faraway governments telling me what to do. I don't live in a place like Fort Stockton because I want lots of rules, regulations and bureacracy. Out here, we look out for our neighbors - but we believe in minding our own business.


One matter of business we had to attend to is this matter of litter from plastic bags. Our cactus, mesquite and barbed wire fence catch every bag that the West Texas wind can stir up, creating millions of plastic eyesores. Not only this, but these same bags mess with our livestock and clog our sewer system. We got sick of seeing them everywhere, and we did not need Washington, D.C., or Austin to tell us how to fix the problem. We just passed a local ordinance banning them from our town more than four years ago. Now, you cans ee a huge difference between Fort Stockton and other West Texas cities when it comes to bag pollution. 


Some people who call themselves conservatives are trying to tell Fort Stockton and other communities that we are not allowed to solve our own problems in our own ways. Gov. Greg Abbott thinks bag ordinances are making Texas more like California.


I don't know when the new governor was last in Fort Stockton, but it is certainly not becoming like California. The idea of the politicians in Austin telling cities how to manage their business runs contrary to my values, and it runs contrary to our interests. Regardless of what you think about single-use bags or ordinances, the right of local city councils to make decisions for their communities ought to be sacred.


It seems more efficient for local governments to find the best way to deal with the impacts of bag pollution. The plastic litter looks ugly and drives away people - along with their money - which both support our local economy. Not only does it look ugly, but we have to spend money on cleaning it up frmo our lots and streets and sewers.


I know they are convenient and if you like them, you can keep them. Here in Fort Stockton, we got tired of them, so we banned them and we beleive we have a God-given right to make decisions to protect our property and our people.


I'm a conservative because I believe in governing from a position of principle. The Republicans generally oppose the federal government meddling in our affairs. And we don't want Austin - Republicans or Democrats - telling us what to do when we make up our minds about what is right for our community. That's why I urge Greg Abbott to leave local governments alone when it comes to bag ordinances.


I know there are conservative and tea party friends that do not like bag bans one bit. They feel like this is a government imposition of its own. Here in Fort Stockton, we had a consensus on the need for this solution, and we worked with businesses on the ban. Even the manager of the local Wal-Mart helped us with the wording on our ordinance.


In communities where conservatives arrive at different answers, they ought to work hard to change their local governments and elect conservative officials to change things, not depend on politicians gathered in Austin to undo what we did in Fort Stockton. This is a stand on principle, and the principle is government of, by and for the people - not lobbyists who want the Legislature to be the City Council of Texas.


Hodges has served on the Fort Stockton School Board and has been on the Fort Stockton City Council since 2009. He also works as a petroleum land man and mental health counselor.


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