Aimee Borgmeyer wore a giant suit made of plastic bags that covered her short frame to Monday's Huntington Beach City Council meeting.
"It's kind of itchy, and it's kind of bothering me," she said.
But the 13-year-old had a point to make: to show the impact plastic bags have on the environment and marine life.
She was there along with several others from the Surfrider Foundation in support of council members Connie Boardman, Devin Dwyer and Joe Shaw's proposal to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarkets and other stores.
The council voted 4 to 3 — Mayor Joe Carchio and Councilmen Don Hansen and Matthew Harper dissented — for city staff to bring forward a new law that would ban stores from using plastic bags and instead encourage customers to bring reusable bags.
At Councilman Keith Bohr's request, city staff was also directed to coordinate with other organizations to create an educational program to bring about a change in attitude about plastic bags.
The ordinance would not ban plastic bags to separate produce or meat, or ban bags used to collect pet droppings at the dog beach. Paper bags would still be allowed and customers would be charged 10 cents for each. Those on Food Stamps or WIC would be exempt, Boardman said.
Surfrider has committed to holding monthly reusable bag giveaways and is donating $2,000 toward an environmental impact report if one is needed for the city, Dwyer said.
At least a half a dozen people spoke in favor of the ordinance.
"If you help take care of our present, I will help take care of our future," said Zoe Florence, drawing extended applause from those in council chambers.
Catherine Johnson, 11, said governments should not punish businesses with a ban but encourage them to reward customers who bring their own reusable bags.
The state Supreme Court last month upheld a city's right to restrict the usage of plastic bags. Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, Calabasas and Long Beach all have ordinances banning them.
Huntington Beach's staff would draft an ordinance similar to the one passed by the Long Beach City Council.
Hansen said the city is already a leader on recycling and green efficiency, and banning plastic bags would not necessarily accomplish the goal of curbing litter.
"This is a behavioral issue," he said.
Harper wanted the city to wait until other Orange County cities adopt such a law. Carchio agreed. A substitute motion was made by Hansen to table it. It failed.
Firefighters get extension
In other city news, the council voted to extend the Huntington Beach Firefighters Assn.'s employee contract through Sept. 30, 2013. The group agreed to contribute 6.75% of its share to the state retirement system, as part of ongoing concessions with all employee groups to cut costs.
The concession is expected to save the city $1.23 million in the next two years. Harper and Hansen voted against the extension.