, Newburyport, MA


May 1, 2014

Clarifying my stance on plastic bags

To the editor:

In regard to a recent article about the proposed plastic bag ban (April 10), I would just like to clear up what I feel is a misrepresentation.

I was quoted in the article in a manner that would imply I am against the proposed ban. While I did advise the City Council, on behalf of the community of folks with disabilities, what the reporter has me quoted as saying was entirely paraphrased, and did not include what it was that I was stressing before the council.

As chair of the Newburyport Commission on Disabilities I would like to clarify exactly what my stance is on the proposed ban.

1. I am not against a ban, I think there are many valid reasons to enact such a measure.

2. I asked the City Council to bear in mind that if the ban happens, they must include a clause or safeguard to ensure that stores no longer offering plastic shopping bags must offer a bag with handles. In other words, if the plastic bags are removed and all that is offered are the paper bags that most grocery stores currently offer (without handles), the stores will inadvertently be discriminating against some folks with disabilities. The disabilities relevant to this include amputees, and others with limited use of their fingers and hands. I agree that many folks can and will use reusable bags, but reusable bags are not offered for free and can pose health issues for some folks as well, including severe food allergies.

So, to reiterate, I’m not against a ban, just pointing out the need for the bags offered to have handles. Also, I would like to add that my statement to the City Council as quoted was taken out of context, since I was actually there to urge councilors to approve transfers that would result in a wheelchair-accessible ramp for the Emma Andrew’s library and an accessible swing at the Brown School playground. It happened to be the same night as the plastic bag proposal, so I also mentioned the point that I just made about the need for handles.

I do applaud the efforts and initiative taken by the youth and the residents who started this proposal in the first place. However, I do not appreciate being paraphrased and not including the point I was actually making and place my name in such a way that was misleading.

Jennie L. Donahue


Newburyport Commission on Disabilities

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