Tony Strickland and “a great future in plastics”
By Shane Cohn 05/03/2012
One of the many memorable scenes from the 1967 film The Graduate shows Benjamin, a listless college graduate unaware of his place in the world, shifting aimlessly at a homecoming party thrown by his self-consumed, upwardly mobile parents, when Mr. McGuire has a word with Benjamin:
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
While that dialogue was written to be a metaphor about the superficiality of American society, it’s ironic how politicians have taken the plastics advice to heart. Forty-five years later, State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, seems to have employed Mr. McGuire’s knowledge in his latest bill authoring attempt.
In what is arguably a response to his most threatening congressional rival — Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s, D-Oak Park — and her popular attempt to issue a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags to curb pollution, Strickland moved to attack reusable cloth bags. Apparently Strickland believes — with enough conviction to make it a state mandate — that these reusable bags are a public health threat. Serious illnesses from food cross-contamination can befall the public if they don’t wash these bags, Strickland has said. So Senate Bill 1106 proposes that labels be printed on every reusable bag, reminding people of their imminent threat, and grocery stores would also have to visibly warn customers about these potential First-World horrors.
Aside from Mr. McGuire’s advice, the research for Strickland’s bill came from a 2010 study, funded by the American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry trade group that also contributed $3,000 to Strickland’s past campaigns. The research from the plastics industry was so compelling to Strickland that his proposal originally called for warning that failure to wash these bags “can cause serious illness, cancer or birth defects.”
While good sense prevailed in striking the latter warning from the bill’s language, Strickland seems to believe wholeheartedly that his constituents do not possess the good common sense to wash a bag if it’s dirty, and that another nanny-state regulation needed to be added to the existing 151,002 health and safety laws in California.
Since Strickland supports industry labeling initiatives, I called his media spokeswoman Sarah Walsh to hear about his stance on the labeling GMO (genetically modified organism) proposition that will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. If Strickland is so concerned about the bags that carry food, it seems likely that he’d champion an initiative, regardless of it being heavily endorsed by the Left, to make sure that his constituents are aware that the food they put into cloth bags, and eventually into their bodies, is genetically engineered, or not. Walsh, however, did not return calls to provide comment.
Luckily for Strickland, his bill was rejected by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee 4-1 (Strickland casting the lone supporting vote), and this plastics blunder may fade from public scrutiny quickly enough that it won’t affect his chances in the June 5 primary. But while Brownley shows her creativity in dealing with plastic bag pollution by introducing a major plastic bag recycling competition to local schools in Oxnard for a chance to win a new bench made of recycled plastic bags, Strickland showed his lack of imagination.
It’s as if he is no different from The Graduate’s Benjamin: a man lost in a deep void with the inability to articulate his vision for the future.
Slapshot is a monthly column/op-ed piece on various issues around Ventura County.