WATERVILLE — Voters will get to decide for themselves whether they want to prohibit large retailers from dispensing plastic bags, since city councilors voted 5-1 Tuesday to override Mayor Nick Isgro’s veto of a vote they previously took to put the referendum on the November ballot.

Tuesday’s vote followed lengthy comments, mostly from people who were angry about the proposed plastic bag ordinance that would prohibit retailers larger than 10,000-square-feet in size from dispensing plastic bags.

Councilors on Aug. 6 voted 4-1 to place the proposed plastic bag ordinance on the Nov. 6 ballot, with Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, the lone dissenter. Mayhew also was the only dissenting voter Tuesday.

Isgro vetoed the council decision earlier this month, saying in a statement that a bag ban referendum would invite special interest groups and “dark money funded influence peddlers” into Waterville, as well as further divide the community.

Isgro led the charge Tuesday night to criticize the plan to have voters decide on the bag issue, saying 51 percent of people should not decide such matters for the majority.

“Would you allow a referendum where 51 percent of people get to decide that only electric cars can be sold here in the city of Waterville?” Isgro asked.

He continued in that vein, asking councilors to answer questions about whether they would allow referendums on banning meat, plastic straws and disposable diapers from being sold. Todd Martin, of Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition, which proposed the plastic bag ordinance, said his organization had no interest in talking about banning items such as disposable diapers.

Mayhew reiterated the stance he took Monday on the issue, saying the referendum on plastic bags targets businesses that are the largest commercial taxpayers in the community.

Stu Silverstein, of Sustain Mid-Maine, asked Mayhew how he justifies not allowing his constituents the right to vote on the issue in November.

“This government, right here, right now, is a facilitator for making choices for private citizens — because this is where it starts,” Mayhew replied.

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Resident Dick Thomas said he wanted to react to the assumption that those wanting to place the issue on the ballot were trying to do bad things to people, saying he believes no one volunteers to do such work unless he has good intentions.

“If we assume bad intentions about others, we’re not going to be able to listen. We’re not going to be able to work together,” Thomas said.

Isgro pressed councilors to answer the questions he had asked about referendums on meat, disposable diapers and other items. At one point, Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, said he was not going to answer the question.

“Course not,” Isgro snapped, asking a reporter if she caught his response.

Soule said studies show that when making a decision, the more data collected, the better the decision. Isgro shot back.

“My point is, no one should be making a decision. We live in a country where I get to make a decision. …”

An angry Bob Vear attacked Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, saying he had never seen her canvassing the neighborhood to ask about the bag issue.

“I’m sorry, Nick’s right. What’s going to be next?” Vear said, his voice growing louder and louder. “How many of you have plastic cellphones? Raise your hands. There’s plastic right on the back of it.”

Vear said he was mad.

“I’m mad because this has no business to be on the ballot November 6 this year,” he said.

Catherine Weeks also opposed putting the issue on the ballot and took the opportunity to lash out at the Morning Sentinel for its coverage.

“This plastic bag thing, I feel like our mayor is telling the truth about this,” she said.”If this man passed out $100 bills every day, he’d be condemned for that too, especially by the paper.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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